We have long recognized the importance of the Sun. Its light helps provide heat and energy for the survival of plants and animals. Its energy is also vital for human health because it aids in the production of Vitamin D, which is crucial for our immune system and reduces the risk of infections and illnesses. Sunlight also triggers the release of a hormone called serotonin, a happy chemical which can keep mental health challenges at bay. It’s safe to say that sunlight is generally good - but is there such a thing as too much?
Scientifically, having appropriate natural sunlight exposure has undeniable physical and psychological benefits for humans. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a person get 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure 2 to 3 times a week. But on the flip side, having too much sunlight exposure can be detrimental to our health.
The sunlight that reaches the earth contains both Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. While these ultraviolet rays UVA and UVB differ in how they affect us, both of them can cause serious harm. Several studies reveal that unprotected exposure to UVA and UVB rays may suppress the body’s immune system and the skin’s natural defenses. They also cause damage at a cellular level, leading to signs of premature aging such as wrinkles, liver spots, actinic keratosis, solar elastosis, and even skin cancer. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have all in fact concluded that UV rays are carcinogenic.
Another risk of excessive UV exposure is an increased risk of eye problems, such as cataracts, pterygium, photokeratitis, extreme light sensitivity, and eye cancer. This is due to UVA rays’ ability to travel through the cornea and into the retina of one’s eye, causing damage to retinal tissue or macular degeneration.
UV rays are known to be strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM. So even on a cloudy day, you can still get sunburned by UV radiation. And what many of us actually don't know is that UV rays pass through windows and can even affect you inside your own home (not to mention harm your home itself). Flooring, furniture, and art can age prematurely as UV rays break down chemical bonds and fade colors.