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App helps protect outdoor workers from dangers of the sun

Skin cancer is preventable, yet despite this more than 120,000 people globally died of the disease and more than 1.5 million were diagnosed with it in 2020.

Press release | 21 June 2022
© Crozet/ILO
GENEVA (ILO News) – Outdoor workers, who are at increased risk of skin cancer and eye damage because of their exposure to the sun, will be able to measure levels of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels at their location using a new mobile phone app.

The SunSmart Global UV app provides five-day UV and weather forecasts at searchable locations worldwide. It highlights time slots when sun protection is required, with the aim of helping people avoid excessive UV exposure and know when to use sun protection.

Developed by Australia’s Cancer Council Victoria and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, the app is being launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Globally, it is estimated that more than 1.5 million cases of skin cancer were diagnosed in 2020. During the same period more than 120,000 people world-wide lost their lives as a result of this highly preventable disease.

“This app is a useful tool to assist companies and workers in identifying hazardous work and planning safety and health measures,” said Vera Paquete-Perdigão, Director of the ILO’s Governance and Tripartism, Department. “On 10 June the International Labour Conference adopted a Resolution recognizing a safe and healthy work environment as a new Fundamental Principle and Right at Work. It is a global call for increased efforts to prevent work-related injuries and diseases. Tools such as SunSmart Global UV are a small but useful contribution to this endeavour.”

Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health said, “Evidence shows that overexposure to UV is the major cause of skin cancer. So, it’s vital for people to know when and how to protect themselves. We encourage everyone to use the application to protect themselves and their children and to make this a daily habit.”

Under an international treaty known as the Montreal Protocol all UN Member States are phasing out the production and consumption of chemicals that thin the ozone layer.

“The Montreal Protocol protects the stratospheric ozone layer which, in turn, protects human health and the environment by blocking most of sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the earth’s surface. Skin cancer can result from overexposure to the sun, so it is imperative for everyone to remain vigilant and ensure they protect themselves adequately with hats and sunscreen. The SunSmart App is a fantastic UV monitoring tool, and I would encourage everyone to use it,” said Meg Seki, Executive Secretary of UNEP’s Ozone Secretariat.

The UV App has been launched to coincide with the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. It helps support the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goal 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and well-being worldwide by 2030.

“This app combines meteorological, environmental and health expertise to help protect people from the sun both at work and in their leisure. It is unique because it uses data from country-level weather and UV measuring stations to provide accurate and location-specific UV Index readings,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Tallas. “It is a great example of science serving society.”

The app is based on the UV Index, which indicates the level of solar UV radiation at the earth’s surface. The UV Index uses a scale of 1 (or Low) to 11 and higher (or Extreme). The higher the index value the greater the potential for damage to the skin and eyes and the less time it takes for harm to occur. The maximum UV Index is at the solar noon when the sun is highest in the sky. Adapting outdoor activities and using sun protection are recommended when the UV Index is 3 or above. UV damage is cumulative, and UV can be harmful when people are exposed for long periods – even at low levels.

The SunSmart Global UV app is available free of charge at both the Apple App and Google Play stores.

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