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Avoiding Overexposure To Sun While Driving

Pedro Szekely/

Ditmire: People who live in California spend a lot of time in the sun and their car. And that combination concerns Beverly Hills Eye Surgeon Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler

Dr. Wachler: People should realize when they are driving they are getting serious exposure over the years, which is why there is more skin cancer, more melanoma and more cataracts on the left side of the face and the eyes than on the right. 

Ditmire: The doctor wondered just how much UV light comes through a car windshield, so he took a UV meter to several Los Angeles area car dealerships. 

Dr. Wachler: They let us open the doors and measure the UV radiation coming through the side windows and the windshield. And we were really shocked about what we found. 

Ditmire: And how little we are protected. 

Dr. Wachler: Most cars, no matter how expensive they were, brand new cars as low as 55 percent protection in the side windows. The windshields were close to up to 100 percent. 

Ditmire: Including tinted windows. 

Dr. Wachler: We measured cars too that had tints. And I was very surprised the UV protection was very poor, even in cars that had really dark tinted windows that were from the factory. 

Ditmire: He recommends sunglasses and sunscreen for the driver and passengers, and UV protective film for the windows. 

Dr. Wachler: Find one of these folks who do films they put on windows of houses and cars. And ask them to do clear UV film on all the side windows of the car. That’s probably the easiest thing to do. 

Ditmire: Eyes are his specialty, and the doctor says UV rays can further aggravate cataracts and another condition called Keratoconus. 

Dr. Wachler: That’s where the cornea bulges out and gets distorted. Actually the UV from the sun is quite harmful for people who have Keratoconus, so that's an important message. Keratoconus occurs much more frequently now with 1 in 500 people. 

Ditmire: And while he practices in sunny California, his findings affect drivers in all climates.

Dr. Wachler: You have the sun exposure directly but then you have the sun reflecting off of snow like giant mirrors, so you get twice as much UV exposure. 

Reporting for Sound Medicine, I’m Jill Ditmire