Protection against solar ultraviolet radiation

Mutat Res. 1998 Nov 9;422(1):15-22. doi: 10.1016/s0027-5107(98)00181-x.


Interest in protection against solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) among the general public in Australia has been increasing steadily as a result of the 'SunSmart' campaigns run by the various state cancer councils. This increasing awareness is due in part to the requirements for occupational protection of outdoor workers and to provision of UVR protection for the recreational market. Behaviour outdoors can significantly affect exposure to solar UVR and use of items of personal protection can provide a substantial reduction in the UVR dose received. The protective properties of sunscreens, sunglasses, hats and clothing against UVR have been the subject of considerable research for some time, and over the last few years interest has extended to the provision of shade structures and the UVR protection provided by various commonly used materials. These materials include shadecloth, plastics, glass, windscreens and applicable tints. Australia has rigorous standards covering protection and UVR, in particular for sunscreens [Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand, Sunscreen products-evaluation and classification, Report No. AS 2604, Sydney/Wellington, 1993.], sunglasses [Standards Australia, Sunglasses and fashion spectacles-nonprescription types, Report No. AS 1067.1, Sydney, 1990.], protective eyewear [Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand, Eye protectors for industrial applications, Report No. AS/NZS 1337, Sydney/Wellington, 1992.] and shadecloth [Standards Australia, Synthetic shadecloth, Report No. AS 4174, Sydney, 1994.]. Compliance with the sunglass standard became mandatory in 1988 and UVR protection provided by sunglasses has increased substantially since then. In July 1996 a standard on 'sun protective textiles' [Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand, Sun protective clothing-evaluation and classification, Report No. AS/NZS 4399, Sydney, 1996.] incorporating ultraviolet protection factors (UPFs) and a rating scheme with protection categories, was introduced; this was the first of its kind in the world. Australian Radiation Laboratory (ARL) UPF swing tags with UVR protection advice from the Australian Cancer Society on the reverse side are used to denote the amount of protection against solar UVR provided by clothing. To date in excess of 5 million ARL swing tags have been issued. Work on the various standards is continuing. The maximum allowed 'sun protection factor' (SPF) limit for sunscreens may be increased to SPF 30 + in the near future, and additions to the sun protective textiles standard are also planned. This paper discusses measurement methods, results, the rationale used in formulating the Australian Standards and the current state of UVR protection in Australia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Clothing
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Eyeglasses
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / prevention & control*
  • Radiation Protection*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*


  • Sunscreening Agents