UV Health Risks in Burma’s Hot Season Burn

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 17 March 2015

RANGOON — Burma’s central regions are once again feeling the burn from dangerously high ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels at the beginning of the hot season, with experts advising locals to take precautions in the sun.

This week, five of the country’s seven central divisions are slated for extreme levels of UV exposure, according to data from Myanmar Climate Change Watch (MCCW).

Tun Lwin, the MCCW chairman, said UV levels had been gradually increasing year on year as a result of global environmental degradation.

“The more the environment is damaged, the more the UV index rate will increase,” he told The Irrawaddy. “Rangoon, Irrawaddy Division and Naypyidaw are the worst affected, but I can state that the whole country is suffering the impact of higher UV levels.”

The UV index is an internationally recognized measurement of the strength of the sun’s UV radiation, divided according to the health risk of unprotected exposure to sunlight.

A UV index of 11 or above denotes extreme levels of health risk. The UV index will reach above 11 on Tuesday in Kayah State and all divisions except Sagaing and Mandalay, which will record a very high level of UV exposure risk alongside Kachin and Shan States. On Mar. 20, the UV index is expected to hit 15 in central Burma.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, prolonged exposure to high UV levels can lead to skin cancer, cataracts and suppression of the immune system.

Tun Lwin advised people to minimize health risks by avoiding direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm, and wearing brimmed hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, long shirts and trousers if outside.

Win Myo Thu, managing director of the Economically Progressive Ecosystem Development (EcoDev), said that as long as greenhouse gas production continued to increase globally, Burma was likely to experience higher UV index levels for longer periods.

“The UV index and the state of the environment is related—the more greenhouse gases, the higher our UV index,” he said.