Sun safety: call to protect children's future vision
CANCER Council has welcomed calls for a "no hat, no sunglasses, no play” policy in primary schools, to protect children from significant eye damage caused by ultraviolet radiation.
The call by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists follows a sharp increase in the number of children with UV-related eye damage.
Cancer Council Queensland spokeswoman Katie Clift said a "no hat, no sunglasses, no play” policy should be considered.
"Adequate eye protection against UV radiation is vital for adults and children during outdoor activity in daylight hours,” Ms Clift said.
"Damage to the eyes can occur regardless of the UV level, so we strongly recommend children wear sunglasses during daytime outdoor activity.
"Children are particularly sensitive to skin and eye damage from UV radiation, and it's critical to limit the exposure of very young children to UV radiation.
"UV damage to eyes commonly occurs in childhood and is linked to eye disease later in life, including cataracts, serious retina damage, and cancers on the surface of the eye.
"We support the consideration, by parents and schools, of a 'no hat, no sunglasses, no play' policy - offering maximum protection to children in the scorching Queensland sun.”
Ms Clift said an overarching policy response would send an important signal to educators and parents, as well as primary school kids.
"A no hat, no sunnies, no play policy is important in principle - to compel action in instances where complacency may prevail.
"At the same time, we recognise that the enforcement of such a measure need not be absolute, and every child's right to play should be given high regard.
"That is, we understand that sometimes practicalities, such as cost or the child's comfort with wearing sunglasses, may present challenges.
"In any case, we welcome all efforts to improve eye protection for school children, to reduce risks of UV-related cancers later in life.
"Broadening the no hat, no play policy to include sunglasses would significantly strengthen protection for children against future risk of cancer, further safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our next generation,” Ms Clift said.
In 2013, the latest figures available, 81 Queenslanders were diagnosed with eye cancer and 21 people died from the disease.
From 2009-2013, around 42 Queenslanders were diagnosed with melanoma of the eye each year, and about 15 people died from the disease annually.
Cancer Council Queensland recommends Queenslanders choose a pair of sunglasses that meet the Australian/New Zealand Standard and have the correct classifications and labelling.
"Choosing wraparound, close-fitting, large-lens sunglasses provide the best protection by reducing direct and reflected UV radiation and glare,” Ms Clift said.
"Always look for wrap-around sunglasses that meet the Australian/New Zealand Standard 1067:2003 and an Eye Protection Factor (EPF) 10.
"Choose sunglasses with a clearly-labelled lens category two, three or four, rather than basic fashion spectacles or children's toy sunglasses.”
Wearing a broad-brimmed hat along with wraparound sunglasses can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98 per cent.
Cancer Council-endorsed prescription lens coatings that block up to 95 per cent of transmitted and reflected UV are available from optical outlets, for use on prescription lenses.
More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at cancerqld.org.au or 13 11 20.