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03 November 2013

Being Sun Smart In New Zealand

New Zealand has some of the strongest levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the world and the highest rate of melanoma skin cancer in the world. There are more than 2,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer each year among Kiwis and over 300 people die each year from melanoma skin cancer. And if that doesn't seem like a lot to you, keep in mind there are only 4.49 million people living in New Zealand. Almost as many people here die each year from melanoma skin cancer as they do on the road. That's a bit sobering. As we are about to move onto our boat full-time here next month, it is something we need to pay particular attention to.

When we moved to New Zealand, I ended up getting a sunburn. This wasn't too out of the ordinary as I am very fair and rarely tan and when I don't burn, I generally just get freckly. But Scott, who never burns, even got a sunburn here and that's when I learned all about the giant Antarctic ozone hole which spreads over New Zealand and how dangerous it can be.

New Zealand is located at the bottom of the Southern Hemisphere and is very close to the Antarctica. In the 1980s, scientists discovered that there was a hole in the ozone over the South Pole which we humans caused with our bottles of hairspray and other chemicals. (Yes, I am responsible for this as well. It took a lot of hairspray to get my hair to create all those fabulous 1980s hairdos.) It is kind of like having hole in your hull - it lets water in which is not good at all. The hole in the ozone lets harmful UV rays from the sun in through the earth's natural sunscreen layer - that's not good either. The good news is that ozone hole may be shrinking - see here. New Zealand also has very clear skies and not a lot of pollution which increases the levels of UV radiation. Compared to similar latitudes in Europe, peak UV intensities in New Zealand are 40% higher.

We're heading into summer now in New Zealand and getting the boat ready to start cruising full-time on it, so its a good time to remind ourselves of how best to protect ourselves while out on the water.
  1. Put sunscreen on first thing in the morning. During daylight savings time in New Zealand (September to April), I try to remember to put on sunscreen as part of my morning routine. It reminds me of its importance and then I have a sort of base layer to start the day with.
  2. Reapply frequently. The sun is so strong here, I can feel myself start to burn after a couple of hours, so I need to reapply sunscreen all the time.
  3. The weather always changes here. We try to never leave the boat without a bottle of sunscreen in our bag so that we're prepared to slop some more on when the sun comes out.
  4. Wear a hat. Scott is really good about always wearing a hat, especially as he shaves his head. He'll wear any old hat with a brim and I think he only owns two. I have a fair few more than that (some of which are more fashionable than others), but my favorite for the boat has a strap on it so  that it doesn't go flying off in the wind.
  5. Sunglasses. We try to look cool wearing sunglasses all the time. And it is quite practical as the sun can get so bright here reflecting off the water. You really can't do without.
  6. We nag each other. I was actually the worst offender with getting burned and my family and Scott were always nagging me to put more sunscreen on. What's fun now is that Scott has shown he can burn in the New Zealand sun so I have an excuse to put my hands on my hips and tell him, "I told you so! Now go put some sun screen on." Sometimes the power of nagging goes to my head. But like I tell Scott, I only nag those I love.
SunSmart New Zealand has some great tips and resources on sun protection and melanoma skin cancer which you can check out here. In New Zealand and elsewhere, it pays to follow their mantra - slip, slop, slap and wrap.


Via New Zealand Sun Smart











Visit The Monkey's Fist to find other posts on this topic:http://themonkeysfist.blogspot.com/2013/11/sun-safety.html

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2 comments:

  1. Given that the thinning of the ozone layer (it's not a "hole", its a thinning of the ozone layer) is over the southern polar region (i.e. south of NZ) and the sun is always north of NZ, and given that light (even UV light) doesn't make a habit of taking a circuitous route to anywhere (i.e. it travels pretty much in straight lines), do you still think that any sunburn you might experience has anything to do with a thinning of the ozone layer over Antarctica?

    Yes, the sunlight in NZ is particularly strong and its easy to get sunburnt, but it really has nothing to do with ozone thinning over Antarctica ... it's physically impossible for the ozone thinning to have any effect at all.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Anon - you're quite right that it isn't technically a hole - one of those terms that people (including me) have been using for a while that isn't accurate. I'm definitely not an expert (which I'm sure is pretty obvious!), so my source of info has been talking to Kiwis and articles like this one in the New Zealand Herald (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10833172). It says that "Although it [the ozone "hole"] is present in only small amounts in the Earth's atmosphere, it is vital to human life and the ecosystem. Its decline is largely blamed for New Zealand having the highest melanoma rate in the world, with about 300 deaths a year." But maybe I shouldn't believe everything I read in the papers - they've been known to get things wrong before :-) Do you have any other info on this that you could email through? Keen to learn more.

      In any event (no matter what the cause), the sunlight is really strong here as you say so I do try to be sunsmart. Do you live in NZ? If so, how do you find the sun here?

      Really appreciate you taking the time to read our blog and comment.

      Cheers - Ellen

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