Stickers for suntan

Avoiding sunburn will be easier with the Sticker, a coin-sized patch worn on the skin or clothing, that changes colour when the wearer has had too much sun. The Sticker was developed by Israel-based Skyrad, a start-up venture at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, which causes tanning and burns, has become more of a problem in recent years as the protective ozone layer high in the atmosphere has thinned due to air pollution. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, excessive exposure to UV not only causes sunburn, but hastens skin aging and increases the risk of skin cancer.

‘The sun’s ultraviolet radiation is the cause of premature aging, wrinkling, benign and precancerous growths and at least 90% of all skin cancers,’ said Dr. Perry Robins, founder and president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. ‘We welcome new developments such as the Sticker that could help alert people to the importance of protecting themselves from the damaging rays of the sun.’

The Sticker measures the total accumulated dosage of UV rays absorbed by the body, said Dr. Ori Faran, Skyrad’s product developer and managing director. It is the accumulation of UV radiation over time that causes burns and skin damage. Existing UV dosimeters measure the intensity of the UV, not the accumulated dose. And, using sunscreen alone can lull people into false security since it takes longer to feel the effects of sunburn.

The Sticker comes in two versions – for use with or without sun screen — for six skin types, from very light (burns, does not tan) to very dark (seldom burns) and is adjusted to the UV dose that causes burns for that skin type. For example, Skin Type 2 will burn in only one quarter the time it takes Type 4.

Photochromic elements contained in the Sticker gradually change color from blue to silver or purple to yellow as the absorbed UV radiation reaches the pre-determined level, thereby warning the wearer to get out of the sun, cover up or reapply sunscreen.

‘The Sticker changes color for a UV dose below that which causes only a very light sunburn’ explains Dr. Faran. ‘So if a person mistakes his or her skin type, or forgets to look at the sticker, a severe burn is still highly unlikely. And, if the wearer moves into a shaded area and then goes back to the sun, the Patch quickly returns to the shade it was before the wearer left the sun.’

Dr. Faran, a physicist who used to work on devices that measure radiation at Elscint, a leading Israeli medical imaging company, developed the Sticker as he contemplated the millions exposed to UV radiation. He points out that the Sticker will be important in winter sports as well, since UV intensity increases at high altitude and is further intensified by reflection from snow.

From 1979 to the early 1990s, total ozone in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, which includes much of the United States, decreased at a rate of 2 to 4 percent per decade, according to studies done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A ground-based measurement study of ozone depletion in Alaska, published in Geophysical Research Letters, found that UVB radiation – the type that is filtered by ozone — increased 3 to 10 percent per year between 1991 and 1996.

The Sticker will be available in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Argentina in November, and in the United States next spring.

Sample Stickers are available at 212 307-2595.

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