Almost 70% of local primary school students are aware of the unltraviolet (UV) index in their daily lives, particularly before engaging in outdoor activities.
The results were in a survey of students about awareness of protection from UV radiation released by the Hong Kong Observatory and Department of Health today (13 October).
The Observatory and the Department of Health jointly conducted a questionnaire survey in June on the awareness of UV radiation among primary 5 and 6 students. More than 3,000 questionnaires were collected. The results of the survey will shed light on how education on UV radiation can be strengthened in the future.
Analysis showed that some 70% of the students would check the level of the UV index as part of their daily life and before engaging in outdoor activities. About 60% of the students said they would take protective measures like using an umbrella, wearing a hat or using a sunscreen lotion. About 80% of the students knew that overexposure to sunshine might cause painful sunburns and even skin cancers. The survey also revealed that girls were more likely than boys to check the UV index and take protective measures. However, less than 20% of students knew that UV radiation could cause premature ageing of the skin and cataracts. Strengthening health education on these aspects in the future is necessary.
At a press conference today, Assistant Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Leung Wing-mo said, "The results of the survey are encouraging as the majority of schoolchildren are generally aware of UV radiation. As UV radiation on children and adolescents has long-lasting adverse effects, parents and teachers should, as part of their continuing effort, teach children about the related knowledge and the correct attitude to sun protection."
Mr Leung said that as well as disseminating UV indices, the Observatory had recently added to its website new information on UV radiation, which would be useful to teachers in preparing teaching materials. It also provided parents with practical tips to protect their children from UV radiation.
In the Hong Kong Community Weather Information Network (Co-WIN), which is jointly established by the Observatory, the Department of Applied Physics of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Hong Kong Joint-school Meteorological Association, a number of member schools have installed UV measuring sensors covering most of the territory. This data has been uploaded to the Co-WIN website for public information.
Also present at the press conference was Senior Medical and Health Officer (Environmental Health) of the Department of Health, Dr Chow Chor-yiu, who said that a 2008 survey showed that about 10% of local people had experienced sunburn in the previous year. "Excessive exposure to UV radiation may cause painful sunburn and premature ageing of the skin, as well as increase the risk of skin cancers and cataracts. As the adverse health effect of UV radiation exposure is cumulative, more attention should be paid to children who should not be left in the sun for extended periods of time. Schools, parents and students can co-operate to take appropriate protective measures to prevent the adverse effects of UV radiation on students' health," Dr Chow said.
In general, when the intensity of UV radiation is moderate to high, people should take appropriate protective measures such as seeking shade, wearing long-sleeved clothing, using a sunscreen lotion or wearing a broad brimmed hat. When the intensity is very high or extreme, people should make sure they take adequate protective measures.
The UV webpage of the Observatory and the Co-WIN webpage can be accessed on http://www.weather.gov.hk/wxinfo/uvindex/english/euvindex.htm and http://weather.ap.polyu.edu.hk/index.php?optElement=UV respectively.