Awareness of the phototoxic effects of sunlight among South African university students

17 Jun 2020

Due to the depletion of the atmospheric ozone, there is currently a great concern for the phototoxic effects of sunlight on humans worldwide. The pur- pose of this study was to evaluate the awareness of the phototoxic effects of sunlight among a sam- ple of South African university students. A ques- tionnaire on awareness of the adverse effects of excessive exposure to sunlight was completed by the participants and findings were analyzed. Ages of the participants (n=1832) ranged from 17 to 55 years (mean = 21.03 ? 3.44) and there were 43.7% males and 56.3% females. Many, (73.9%) agreed that excessive exposure to the sun is harmful to health, but only 56.9% could adequately explain how it is harmful to health. Many, (68.2%) agreed that fair-skinned individuals are more likely to be affected by the sun than dark-skinned ones. Only 52% reported that childhood exposure to sunlight is more dangerous than adulthood exposure. A few (32.9%) agreed that short term intensive ex- posure was more dangerous than chronic regular moderate exposures. Although 72.3% had heard about ultraviolet (UV) radiation, only 47.1% had heard of cataracts and fewer (25.7%) agreed that cataracts can be caused by UVR exposure. A few (28.7%) had heard of macular degeneration, but only 17.6% agreed that it can be caused by UVR. Although awareness was good in certain aspects, it was poor in others; suggesting the need for an awareness campaign among South Africans. It is recommended that the awareness campaign should include avoidance of excessive exposure and the use of appropriate protective devices. (S Afr Optom 2010 69(3) 146-151)