Title: The Hidden Health Risk of Window Seats on Airplanes: Solar Radiation Exposure
Subtitle: Recent Studies Highlight the Need for Sun Protection during Air Travel
The feeling of flying through the skies sitting next to the window of an airplane has no comparison. As the clouds race by and cities become miniature versions of themselves, the window seat often looks like the best seat on the plane. However, this privileged place with views can entail an unexpected risk to health.
When we think about the possible risks of flying, a thousand things can cross our minds, such as a possible plane crash or discomfort due to altitude. But we rarely consider the sunlight as a threat when we are inside the airplane cabin. However, recent studies have shed light on the possible harmful effects of solar radiation during a flight, especially for those who sit at the window and accidentally receive more sun rays.
A popular TikTok user, Finding Fiona, has recently sparked an interesting discussion about the need to apply solar protection before boarding a flight or even inside the plane. What’s more, one dermatologist supports this suggestion seemingly bizarre, highlighting the extent to which a window seat is not entirely risk-free.
The effects of UV rays in a flight
Before you imagine yourself getting burned in mid-flight, let’s make it clear that you won’t get a tan even if you’re glued to the window of the plane during ten hours of travel. While it is true that the altitude of the plane, coupled with its proximity to the sun, increases the intensity of harmful UV rays, you will not burn like when you go to the beach. The reason is simple: airplane windows are designed to block ultraviolet B rays, the main cause of most sunburns. So there’s no fear of turning red like a lobster.
However, as Elizabeth Jones, a medical professional, reminds, UVB rays are not the only ones responsible for sun-related skin hazards. There is another factor to consider: the UVA rays. Unlike its counterparts, UVA rays can reach us, especially through older windows that can only filter out about 50% of these rays – compared to newer ones that can completely shield us.
UVA rays may not leave you with an immediate and painful memory like UVB rays, but its damage is deeper, literally. They penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB, causing signs of premature aging such as wrinkles and spots. And what is more dangerous, prolonged exposure to these rays can also increase the skin cancer risk. In fact, a 2015 study published on the JAMA Network highlighted that airline pilots, along with crew members, were more susceptible to skin cancer due to their increased exposure to UVA rays during flight hours.
So next time you find yourself packing for a flight, consider adding a bottle of sunscreen to your carry-on if you’re going to sit in a seat with a view.
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