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Study: Your Side Windows Are Leaving You Exposed to the Sun

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I am a very fair-skinned guy, so it is safe to say that, over the years, I have become intimately acquainted with sunburn. In many interior pictures of me, you can tell what season it is by seeing if my face is bright red. So, as the weather heats up and we enter into vacation season, I would like to remind you all that, even if you are in a car, you can get sunburn from light coming in your passenger windows.

There will be no witty anecdotes for this assertion, though—this time I am back up by science, specifically by a new study by Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler of the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute in Beverly Hills, California.

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In his study, Wachler used a UV-A light meter (which detects the most common UC rays that cause skin damage) and measured the interior of 29 different cars, which ranged across 15 manufacturers and across model years 1990 to 2014.

Wachler found that, generally speaking, car windshields do a good job of blocking UV-A rays, keeping out about 96% on average. However, side windows fared far worse, with the amount of UV-A rays blocked ranging from 44% to 96%, with only four of the 29 cars blocking over 90%.

A commentary published with the study may have an explanation. Dr. Jayne Weiss wrote that windshields are generally more protective because they are made of laminated glass so that it won’t shatter when struck, but car door windows are more often just tempered glass.

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So, to protect you from the sun on those long summer drives, Weiss, Wachler and Dr. Paul Nghiem (division head of dermatology at the University of Washington) suggest three things: get some good UV-A- and UV-B-blocking wrap-around sunglasses, wear long sleeves or a broad-spectrum sunblock, and get a clear UV filter added to your car windows.

News Source: NBC News