Environment Canada's UV Index Celebrates Ten Years: Now Bringing Sun Safety Messages to 26 Countries

OTTAWA, May 27, 2002 - The Honourable David Anderson, Minister of the Environment and Health Minister Anne McLellan today marked the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Ultraviolet (UV) Index as an example of consumer education and health protection. The UV Index was launched by Environment Canada in May 1992, and is now used in 26 countries.

"I congratulate Environment Canada's scientists for creating such a useful tool, one that has helped save lives in Canada and around the world," said Environment Minister David Anderson. "UV has now become a household term, and the UV Index has been instrumental in educating Canadians of the need to protect themselves from the harmful rays of the sun."

Environment Canada scientists developed the UV Index to keep Canadians informed about the strength of the sun's UV rays, and to raise awareness about the need to take action to protect their health. Over-exposure to UV can cause sunburn, skin cancer, skin aging, cataracts, and possible suppression of the immune system.

"Health Canada is pleased with its work in the development of the UV Index," said Minister McLellan. "The development of the UV Index is part of our ongoing efforts to help Canadians maintain their health."

The World Meteorological Organization and the World Health Organization adopted the index in 1994 as an international standard to be used by weather services around the world. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the Canadian Index has actually helped to save lives by increasing public awareness of the effects of the sun's damaging UV rays, including skin cancer.

The UV Index uses a simple numerical scale to inform people about the strength of the sun's UV rays. The higher the number, the stronger the sun, and the greater the need to take "sun-wise" precautions. Environment Canada developed the index as a weather product, so that it could be reported on a daily basis and would be easily accessible to Canadians. A Decima survey taken this spring indicates that 82% of Canadians are now familiar with the index. Of these, 90% found it easy to understand.

The UV Index was developed in close cooperation with health partners, including the Canadian Dermatology Association, the Canadian Cancer Society and Health Canada.

"Canadians are more aware of the harmful effects of the sun and the need to protect themselves. The UV Index is a valuable reminder to be careful in the sun," said Cheryl Rosen, Canadian Dermatology Association.

"Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada," said Cheryl Moyer, Director, Cancer Control Programs, Canadian Cancer Society. "The UV Index has helped to create awareness of the importance of protecting ourselves from the sun."

The UV index is now used in 26 countries, including the U.S., Australia, Hong Kong and most of Europe. South America has shown a particular interest in the program, as the Antarctic ozone hole reaches the southern tip of that continent. While considerable action has been taken to protect the ozone layer, and levels of the most damaging ozone-depleting chemicals are now decreasing in the atmosphere, scientists remain uncertain about its full recovery.

Global action to repair the stratospheric ozone layer came about following the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer which committed countries to eliminating the production and importation of substances including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), commonly used in air conditioners, refrigerators, solvents, and foams, as well as halons used as a fire suppressant and methyl bromide, used as a pesticide. Canadian regulations are in place to meet these requirements.

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