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SANTIAGO, Jan 9 IPS - The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, where the ozone thins out every southern hemisphere springtime, is recovering for the time being, but all regions in Chile will receive extremely high levels of ultraviolet radiation this month. Every year, between September and November, the ozone layer thins out in a large area that includes the southern parts of Argentina and Chile, where UV radiation increases by 25 percent.

According to the latest report from the Chilean Meteorological Office, the ozone hole was indeed filled in by Dec. It is therefore recommended that people take every possible precaution during their holidays, that is, avoid exposure to the sun between 10 a.

People who work outdoors — farmers and fisherfolk — must be especially careful, as well as those spending the summer in the countryside, the mountains or on the coast, since water, sand and snow reflect UV radiation and accentuate its effects. Apart from skin cancer, prolonged exposure to UV rays can cause eye damage, such as cataracts, and infections, because it weakens the immune system. UV-B radiation is the most dangerous, and its effects are cumulative.

Nancy Ortiz, of the non-governmental National Cancer Corporation CONAC , told IPS that the incidence of malignant skin tumours has doubled in Chile in the last 10 years, and skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in the country.

An estimated 10 out of every , Chileans now have skin cancer, and the number of sufferers is rising. Among other efforts, a photo-sensitive bracelet was put on sale which signals when the sun is dangerous for the skin.

According to Ortiz, the bracelet has been so successful in Chile that orders are now being received from other countries in Latin America, and from Europe and the United States. In March , law 20, was passed to implement the Montreal Protocol, signed and ratified by Chile in This convention, signed by countries, is designed to allow the ozone layer to recover its normal thickness by gradually eliminating the use of chlorofluorocarbons CFCs and about a hundred other ozone-depleting chemicals.

These chemical substances, particularly CFCs present in refrigerators, freezers and air-conditioners, destroy the ozone layer and the natural protection it affords. The law, which according to both Morales and Ortiz was late in arriving, also calls for awareness-raising on preventive health measures. For example, it states that the media must include information about UV radiation levels in weather reports, which they are now doing. But he said the key was to educate children and young people about the environment in primary and secondary schools, which is only just beginning to happen.

The exception is those who work out-of-doors. Alfonso, 59, works as a truck driver in Santiago, which obliges him to spend the better part of the day on the street and in the sun. Carolina Arredonda, a year-old computer engineer, also said she knew the risks involved when she sunbathes, and therefore uses a sunblock cream which protects against UV rays. All rights reserved.

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ENVIRONMENT-CHILE: UV Radiation, the Dark Side of the Sun





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