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What is The “UV Index,” and Why Should I Care?

I was driving earlier this morning through Ontario on my way to Buffalo for a flight, and the sky was clear and cloudless.  It’s a little on the chilly side up there in the Buffalo area (at least it was at 7am when I was on the road), but on the CBC News I heard an anchor talk about a “very high UV index that will make being outside a little on the burny side.”

What?  I’m going to Dallas right now on a flight, and the UV Index is something that I’ve always just assumed was because we’ve polluted a hole in the ozone, and Nicolas Cage is going to have to deal with aliens like he did in that horrible movie about the sun burning up the Earth.

So what exactly IS the UV Index, how does it affect us, and why should we care?

Well, have you ever been sunburned?  How about melanoma?  Ever had a skin cancer scare?  Sun poisoning?  Blisters?  It’s the ultraviolet rays of the sun’s radiation that make our skin the color of a lobster when we’re out in it.  Did you know that overexposure to the sun can cause cataracts?!

Yeah.  I still love the sun.  That’s probably why I’ll look like a freaking leather catcher’s mitt when I’m 50.

There are three types of ultraviolet radiation:

  • UVA – makes it through the ozone layer
  • UVB – mostly absorbed by the ozone layer; some does reach the Earth’s surface
  • UVC – completely absorbed by the ozone layer and oxygen

Our Environmental Protection Agency has quantified the risk of the amount of UV exposure that we get on a certain day.  From the EPA’s website on sun exposure:

and something a little more helpful, from Wikipedia:

UV Index Description Media Graphic Color Recommended Protection
0–2 No danger to the average person Green Wear sunglasses on bright days; use sunscreen if there is snow on the ground, which reflects UV radiation, or if you have particularly fair skin.
3–5 Little risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Yellow Wear sunglasses and use sunscreen, cover the body with clothing and a hat, and seek shade around midday when the sun is most intense.
6–7 High risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Orange Wear sunglasses and use sunscreen having SPF 15 or higher, cover the body with sun protective clothing and a wide-brim hat, and reduce time in the sun from two hours before to three hours after solar noon (roughly 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM during summer in zones that observe daylight saving time).
8–10 Very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Red Wear sunscreen, a shirt, sunglasses, and a hat. Do not stay out in the sun for too long.
11+ Extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Violet Take all precautions, including: wear sunglasses and use sunscreen, cover the body with a long-sleeve shirt and trousers, wear a very broad hat, and avoid the sun from two hours before to three hours after solar noon.

I guess that extra four hours a day in the sun over a period of 30 years wasn’t so good for me after all, huh!

When you’re outside this summer, do yourself a favor, wouldja?  Put on some sunscreen!  I’m certainly not one to advocate for staying out of the sun – it’s my favorite source of light after fire!

Thanks, Dermis.net and J Grundy!

Poll: Energy Star Guidelines

Which agency do you think can more accurately administer guidelines for the Energy Star Program?

  • Department of Energy (73%, 8 Votes)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (27%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 11

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US Congress to the EPA: Drop Your Energy Star Criteria

More policy news – it’s always good to know what’s going on, as it affects everything we do, and lighting is no exception.  Just recently, on March 27, the United State Congress told the Environmental Proetction Agency to dump their Energy Star criteria – you might remember that the EPA and the Department of Energy were having some disagreements as to what the Energy Star standards should be, and the government was trying to pass some legislation telling them what it should be.  The DoE and the EPA told Congress that they could figure this out amongst themselves without having to pass some legislation, but Congress told the EPA that the DoE should be administering the Energy Star standards for solid-state lighting.  I’m interested in hearing what the EPA has to say to Congress.

I would really, really like to know what readers think.  Please post your opinions in the comments.

Here’s the text of the letter:

Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515
March 27, 2009

Administrator Lisa Jackson
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Jackson,

We are writing to urge you to quickly bring to resolution the ongoing conflict between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy regarding Energy Star criteria for residential solid-state lighting (SSL) products, commonly referred to as “LED lighting,” by rescinding the EPA Energy Star criteria for SSL as soon as possible.

We recognize and appreciate the EPA’s longstanding leadership in the Energy Star program, and we understand that the Agency’s SSL criteria were developed with intent consistent with the Energy Star mission. However, the current state of affairs, in which two federal agencies have put forth two separate standards, is untenable. The overlapping standards are creating uncertainty in the industry [and the] resulting confusion is threatening American leadership in this growing industry and could erode the integrity of the Energy Star brand if allowed to continue.

The future of the SSL industry is very promising. The market for high-brightness LEDs used in lighting was $205 million in 2006, and projected to grow to approximately $1 billion by 2011. The United States currently enjoys a leadership position in this industry. Because Energy Star certification is a vital step in the commercialization of any new energy efficient technology, a single agency must ultimately take the lead so as not to undermine the SSL industry at a critical point in its development.

We have come to the conclusion that the DOE should administer the Energy Star program for SSL based on our interpretation of section 912(b) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and input from experts in the SSL industry. We understand the past precedent with the respect to the division of responsibility between DOE and EPA and a justifiable interpretation of relevant legislation led the Agency to develop Energy Star criteria for SSL. We hope that report language accompanying the FY2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act provides sufficient clarification as to the intent of Congress in this matter.

The EPA and the Energy Star program have played an invaluable role in making America more energy efficient, and will continue [to] serve an important function in our Nation’s efforts to achieve energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create good jobs for Americans. In interest of preserving the integrity of the Energy Star brand and supporting American leadership in the SSL industry, we urge you to defer to the DOE’s SSL Energy Star criteria.

Sincerely,

Jay Inslee (Member of Congress, D-WA)
Andre Carson (Member of Congress, D-IN)
Russ Carnahan (Member of Congress, D-MO)
Jim Himes (Member of Congress, D-CT)
Mike Honda (Member of Congress, D-CA)
Jerry Moran (Member of Congress, R-KS)
David Price (Member of Congress, D-NC)
Betty Sutton (Member of Congress, D-OH)
Paul Tonko (Member of Congress, D-NY)

cc: Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy
cc: Nancy Sutley, Council on Environmental Quality

Energy Star: EPA and DoE VS. US Senate

Right now, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency are trying to convince the Senate that they can work out the details of the Energy Star program without legislative help.  The Senate has some members who want to go ahead an legislate the Energy Star program and decide what the standards are, regardless of what the two agencies decide. The Obama administration says that the Senate should take out some pending legislation that says the DoE and the EPA have to cooperate in a revised agreement for the Energy Star program. The EPA and the DoE have 45 days or so to get written dispute resolution to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Some people are not happy about this – about the legislation, that is:

Some witnesses at the hearings discussed problems they have encountered with Energy Star, a labeling program launched by EPA in 1992 to help consumers identify the most efficient products.

Kyle Pitsor of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association said there has been confusion in the lighting industry because of competing EPA and DOE programs that address solid state lighting technologies that can provide major energy savings.

Pitsor, the group’s vice president of government relations, said the first DOE specifications for solid-state lighting products were finalized in March of last year. But he said that last year EPA’s Energy Star program also began addressing light fixtures that use solid state lighting. “Companies are investing and making decisions on new LED lighting and … conflicting Energy Star programs will impede acceptance of this developing lighting technology,” he said, and recommended Energy Star programs for solid state lighting be under DOE only.

This is important.  If you’re affected by the potential outcomes either way by this, please post in the comments.

epa-doe

Check out the original article at the NYT.