Umbrellas – more than a rain shield

By Efrosini Costa

Umbrellas – more than a rain shield
When it comes to sheltering yourself from the sun, look to the humble umbrella, researchers say.

A US study has found any ‘fully-functioning handheld umbrella’ can help block more than three quarters of UV light on the sunniest of days.

The researchers have confirmed that the humble wet-weather protector is also an effective extra sun-protection measure.

“In addition to sunscreen, I often encourage people to engage in other sun-protection measures,” said Dr. Brundha Balaraman, a dermatology researcher from the Washington School of Medicine. 

But, if you’re hard pressed when choosing which umbrella to buy or use, try the black ones. They seem to do the job of blocking out the sun exceptionally well, according to the findings. 

Researchers were interested in taking a closer look at the real benefits of the handheld umbrellas, first used by women in Asia and the Middle East as a sun protector., before growing in popularity among women in the US

They reportedly gathered 23 working umbrellas from colleagues at the medical school and put them to work outdoors on a sunny April morning.  UV devices were used to monitor the radiation that passed through the umbrella’s fabric and by the nose of the person holding it.

The results of the experiment were then compared and contrasted to radiation results from the umbrella-less participants. All but one of the umbrellas was of the hand-held variety; the other was a travel sun umbrella.

Published in JAMA Dermatology, the result showed the devices, originally intended to shield users from the rain, worked well in blocking the sun too. At least 77 per cent of UV light was blocked by lighter coloured umbrellas, while the darker varieties blocked even more harmful rays. The travel sun umbrella lived up to its name, blocking more than 99 per cent of harmful UV rays.

While the study’s authors believe the handheld umbrella could prove to be a nifty sun protector for travellers and avid golfers, they acknowledge, “it’s a little challenging to convince people to use umbrellas on a daily basis.”



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