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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 29 July 2008 Referencing Hub media

Dr Greg Bodeker, Research Scientist at NIWA, Lauder, Central Otago, outlines recent research into monitoring the exposure to UV of children while they are at school.


The purpose of that research to look at the UV exposure for New Zealand school children was to look at all different factors – behavioural, environmental, physical and the atmosphere – that are controlling how much UV these children get and then, based on all those factors, to provide some guidance, mostly to schools, on how they might go about trying to reduce the UV that kids are getting. So it was a combination of children keeping very detailed diaries – so this is every 15 minutes through every day, for a 10-day or sometimes a 7-day period, writing down what they were doing, whether they were outdoors or indoors, what they were wearing, long sleeves or short sleeves, if they were swimming, or if they were sitting under a tree, in a vehicle, inside the house or outside the house. And through that whole period we had small little badges, small little UV dosimeters, that were pinned to their lapel, and these dosimeters would measure every 8 seconds how much UV radiation they were getting. And so by aligning these activities diaries with the measurements of UV radiation from the dosimeters, we could start to figure out which activities were leading to high UV and which activities were not. The main outcomes were that school children in New Zealand are getting about the same amount of UV radiation as school children in Northern Europe, the UK, the USA – so not very, very different. Boys tended to get slightly more UV radiation than girls. In terms of how much UV they were getting compared to the ambient UV, on average, they were only getting about 5 or 6 percent of what that outside badge was seeing. There were a few peak kids, you know, if you looked, they were getting maybe 4 or 5 times the recommended daily dose of UV and probably were getting sunburned. But that tended to be not the norm. And for me, what was surprising was how small the dose was. So when we talk about the UV Index outside, you are always talking about the UV that hits a flat horizontal surface. When we looked that these children were mostly getting just a few percent – 5, 6 or 7 percent of the UV that is measured by the UV Index – and to me, that was surprising and quite comforting. Recommendations were made to schools on timing of activities, and also with regard to the built environment in schools, putting up shade cloth and things like that.

New Zealand Ministry of Education
Kaipaki School, Waikato
Parkvale School, Hawkes Bay