Background: There is increasing knowledge about the hazards of solar and ultraviolet (UV) radiation to humans. Although people spend a significant time in cars, data on UV exposure during traveling are lacking. The aim of this study was to obtain basic information on personal UV exposure in cars.
Methods: UV transmission of car glass samples, windscreen, side and back windows and sunroof, was determined. UV exposure of passengers was evaluated in seven German middle-class cars, fitted with three different types of car windows. UV doses were measured with open or closed windows/sunroof of Mercedes-Benz E 220 T, E 320, and S 500, and in an open convertible car (Mercedes-Benz CLK). Bacillus subtilis spore film dosimeters (Viospor) were attached to the front, vertex, cheeks, upper arms, forearms and thighs of 'adult' and 'child' dummies.
Results: UV wavelengths longer than >335 nm were transmitted through car windows, and UV irradiation >380 nm was transmitted through compound glass windscreens. There was some variation in the spectral transmission of side windows according to the type of glass. On the arms, UV exposure was 3-4% of ambient radiation when the car windows were shut, and 25-31% of ambient radiation when the windows were open. In the open convertible car, the relative personal doses reached 62% of ambient radiation.
Conclusions: The car glass types examined offer substantial protection against short-wave UV radiation. Professional drivers should keep car windows closed on sunny days to reduce occupational UV exposure. In individuals with polymorphic light eruption, produced by long-wave UVA, additional protection by plastic films, clothes or sunscreens appears necessary.