Assessment of Levels of Ultraviolet A Light Protection in Automobile Windshields and Side Windows

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Abstract

Importance

Ultraviolet A (UV-A) light is associated with the risks of cataract and skin cancer.

Objective

To assess the level of UV-A light protection in the front windshields and side windows of automobiles.

Design

In this cross-sectional study, 29 automobiles from 15 automobile manufacturers were analyzed. The outside ambient UV-A radiation, along with UV-A radiation behind the front windshield and behind the driver’s side window of all automobiles, was measured. The years of the automobiles ranged from 1990 to 2014, with an average year of 2010. The automobile dealerships were located in Los Angeles, California.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Amount of UV-A blockage from windshields and side windows. The average percentage of front-windshield UV-A blockage was 96% (range, 95%-98% [95% CI, 95.7%-96.3%]) and was higher than the average percentage of side-window blockage, which was 71% (range, 44%-96% [95% CI, 66.4%-75.6%]). The difference between these average percentages is 25% (95% CI, 21%-30% [P < .001]). A high level of side-window UV-A blockage (>90%) was found in 4 of 29 automobiles (13.8%).

Conclusions and Relevance

The level of front-windshield UV-A protection was consistently high among automobiles. The level of side-window UV-A protection was lower and highly variable. These results may in part explain the reported increased rates of cataract in left eyes and left-sided facial skin cancer. Automakers may wish to consider increasing the degree of UV-A protection in the side windows of automobiles.

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