Researchers measure realistic UV exposure

Skiers' UV exposure has been measured on the slopes with a device developed in New Zealand that can also monitor children's UV exposure levels. 

The measurements are the first of their kind for New Zealand ski fields and correlate well with predictions. A miniature UV detector was mounted on a badge that could be pinned to a skier's lapel. The UV measurements might be seen as more realistic when taken this way, because the detector isn't simply placed horizontally.   

The study was done by Richard McKenzie from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Lauder, New Zealand. 'My colleague and co-author, Martin Allen, took it upon himself to do the measurements in his own recreational time,' said McKenzie, 'I understand that he had two days of wonderful skiing'. The doses of UV that the lapel-mounted badges received were less than those received by a stationary detector on a horizontal surface near sea level. 

Skiing isn't the main reason for developing the badges, 'the thrust of the work with these badges is targeted towards increasing public awareness,' said McKenzie.   

Skin cancer is taken seriously in New Zealand. According to McKenzie, the annual treatment costs for skin cancer in New Zealand (population 4 million) exceed NZ$30 million (15 million). There are about 300 deaths per year in New Zealand from skin cancer, most of which are preventable.   

'The ski-field study is just one example of the potential use for these personal UV-monitoring badges,' said McKenzie. A set of the badges has recently been used in a study involving 60 primary school children across New Zealand and the first phase of measurements is complete. The intention is to use the badges to study UV exposure of people involved in other outdoor sports and occupations.   

Katharine Sanderson 


M Allen and R McKenzie, Photochem. Photobiol. Sci., 2005 (DOI: 10.1039/b418942f)