Occupational exposure to ultraviolet radiation: the duality dilemma

Rev Environ Health. Jan-Mar 2007;22(1):1-37. doi: 10.1515/reveh.2007.22.1.1.


Human exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a component of everyday life and a significant hazard for outdoor workers. In addition, a large range of artificial sources also has the potential to provide extreme occupational UV exposure. Even though the human health risks of overexposure to UV are well documented, to date relatively little is known quantitatively about UV exposure. For example, the evidence indicates that workers who are exposed to particular sources (for example, welding arcs) are exposed to extreme UV exposures, despite the use of current control measures. In contrast, increasing evidence points to significant health impacts resulting from underexposure to UV, particularly with the production (or more correctly lack of production) of vitamin D in the skin. The latter poses a serious issue for the work-force, with specific risks for workers lacking adequate sun exposure-underground miners, long-haul flight crews, shift workers, and perhaps indoor workers. Using a risk-management approach, this paper provides a comprehensive review of occupational UV sources, health impact of occupational UV exposure, occupational exposure standards, and levels of exposure in various settings, and discusses the appropriate control measures. In addition, the duality aspect of health impacts from overexposure and underexposure to UV and the associated occupational health implications are specifically explored.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Queensland
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Vitamin D


  • Vitamin D