RANGOON — Burmese meteorologist Tun Lwin has cautioned young revelers during Thingyan to protect against UV exposure during the week-long water festival in April, given the dangerously high heat index spurred by a persistent El Niño weather pattern this year.
In particular, Tun Lwin warned on Sunday, at a public talk in Rangoon organized by the National League for Democracy (NLD), of an increased risk of skin cancer and other weather-related maladies as participants in the festival, which over the years has become increasingly associated with drunkenness and drug use, might be overexposed to the unusually high temperatures gripping the country.
“Because people will get wet during the water festival and be unprotected against the [heat from the sun’s] reflection from water, UV exposure will be worse than in any other period. People are also likely to stay in the sun longer during the festival,” Tun Lwin said.
At a minimum, Tun Lwin noted, UV exposure can cause sunburn, while overexposure can increase one’s risk of skin cancer, short-sightedness and infertility.
“It is best to avoid going outside between 11am and 3pm, when the UV rays are strongest. But if people won’t listen, I urge [them] to take protection before going outside,” he said, advising festival-goers to wear hats, long-sleeve clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen.
El Niño, which has a 12- to 18-month cycle, is forecast to produce dangerous heat waves for the next three months. Accordingly, the government has warned people to prepare for potential health advisories and water shortages, particularly in the agriculture sector.