You & Me & UV


A recent visit home to New England inspired me to write about what has become an important factor in my life: the UV Index. It was a chilly 58 degrees in Boston, yet the peak UV index was 8. That's high/very high on the scale.

Let me preface the following by saying I was an art major, and therefore allergic to anything regarding science. Thus, I turn to Wikipedia

Originally developed in 1992 by Canadian meteorologists to create a sunburn index, the chart transitioned into a standardized scale endorsed by the World Heath Organization in 1994. It's now an international standard of measurement of the strength of sunburn-producing ultraviolet (UV) radiation at a particular place and time. 

UV radiation, in excess, causes skin aging, DNA damage, skin cancer, immunosupression and eye damage. 

It's also wicked hard on hair color and fake flowers. I'm just saying.

Don't be fooled: UV has nothing to do with temperature or sunny/cloudy skies. It’s about the amount of radiation reaching the earth and it fluctuates hourly, daily, monthly and seasonally. It's a number none of us knew existed when we were kids playing outside, or adults trying to tan ourselves. But we need to know it now.

The standard UV chart displays a scale of 1-10, 10 being extreme. And then there's beyond extreme–hello Florida! One summer day the peak reading here was 14. The next day it was 15.  

So now the UV Index is an integral part of my life. I look at the forecast every day, and try to avoid outside activities during the peak hours if it gets above 10. Sunscreen is crucial. Good sunglasses are a must. I love wearing hats–they protect your eyes, face and hair color. Bonus: it's a stylish way to hide the frizz. I've had people recognize me by my hat. Long sleeves and pants in sun protective fabric are an option that’s not as bad as you think. 

As for my container plantings using outdoor artificial flowers, UV exposure is a crucial design factor. There are plants that can take full-on sun for several years and still hold their color, others that need indirect sunlight to hold their value. Actually, very similar to the real plant guideline: put the right plant in the right place. There is science behind the art. If you take the wrong plant (craft store fake flowers) and put it in the wrong place (outdoors in sunlight), it will fail. Meaning, it will color-fade, turn turquoise and crispy, and look pitifully fake. 

Know your numbers. Download a UV Index app, or reference something like the  website for your location. It provides hourly forecasts including UV levels. So be smart. Work the clock. Work the shade. Spread the word.