The solar ultraviolet B radiation protection provided by shading devices with regard to its diffuse component

Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2011 Oct;27(5):236-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0781.2011.00608.x.


Background: The composition of the incident solar global ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation with regard to its beam and diffuse radiation fractions is highly relevant with regard to outdoor sun protection. This is especially true with respect to sun protection during leisure-time outdoor sun exposure at the shore and pools, where people tend to escape the sun under shade trees or different types of shading devices, e.g., umbrellas, overhangs, etc., believing they offer protection from the erythemal solar radiation. The degree of sun protection offered by such devices is directly related to the composition of the solar global UVB radiation, i.e., its beam and diffuse fractions.

Methods: The composition of the incident solar global UVB radiation can be determined by measuring the global UVB (using Solar Light Co. Inc., Model 501A UV-Biometer) and either of its components. The beam component of the UVB radiation was determined by measuring the normal incidence beam radiation using a prototype, tracking instrument consisting of a Solar Light Co. Inc. Model 501A UV-Biometer mounted on an Eppley Solar Tracker Model St-1. The horizontal beam component of the global UVB radiation was calculated from the measured normal incidence using a simple geometric correlation and the diffuse component is determined as the difference between global and horizontal beam radiations.

Results: Horizontal and vertical surfaces positioned under a horizontal overhang/sunshade or an umbrella are not fully protected from exposure to solar global UVB radiation. They can receive a significant fraction of the UVB radiation, depending on their location beneath the shading device, the umbrella radius and the albedo (reflectance) of the surrounding ground surface in the case of a vertical surface.

Conclusions: Shading devices such as an umbrella or horizontal overhang/shade provide relief from the solar global radiation and do block the solar global UVB radiation to some extent; nevertheless, a significant fraction of the solar global UVB radiation does penetrate this supposedly 'protective or comfort zone'. As a result, it is imperative to either apply sunscreen or cover up the exposed body surfaces even when under such shading devices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Radiation Protection*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*