3rd quarter 2009
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UV Protective Clothing: Key to Reducing Skin Damage
published in Issue 78, 3rd quarter 2009
The principal role of ultraviolet (UV) protective clothing is to protect the skin against the harmful effects of the sun, notably skin cancer. This is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer but, fortunately, it is also one of the most preventable.
Public awareness about the dangers of excessive exposure to the sun has grown considerably in recent years. However, large sections of the public remain unaware that UV protective clothing exists or that UV resistance in conventional clothing can be increased. Consequently, they rely on sunscreen for UV protection.
The slow and limited adoption of UV protection in clothing by mainstream consumers may be partly due to the fact that it can not be seen or felt—unlike other performance features such as moisture management and stretch.
In the early 1990s UV protective clothing was considered to be a niche market as it comprised mainly swimwear for children and babywear. Its lack of popularity among adults was due to its relatively high cost, and the perception that it was heavy, hot and uncomfortable to wear.
However, in the past decade, a number of companies have introduced UV protective fabrics and garments which do not sacrifice comfort, breathability or other desirable characteristics commonly associated with good performance apparel. Furthermore, high quality UV protective clothing today is both functional and fashionable. It is typically made from lightweight, breathable fabrics, and can provide as much protection from UV radiation as heavyweight denim.
Looking ahead, it has been projected by some authorities that consumers will come to expect their outdoor apparel to offer UV protection—in the same way as they expect it to be waterproof or insulating today. Others in the industry are less optimistic, and believe that it will take some time before garment manufacturers and consumers fully understand the benefits of UV protective clothing.
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