As people become better informed about the harmful effects of prolonged exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR, 280-400 nm) they will seek the protection of shade, particularly in tropical locations such as Townsville (19 degrees south). Using broad-band radiation sensors for solar ultraviolet-B (280-315 nm), ultraviolet-A (315-400 nm) and daylight (400-800 nm) radiation, the exposure levels were measured in both the horizontal (shaded and unshaded) and vertical (shaded and unshaded) directions. The measurements were conducted at eight locations (shade settings) in Townsville during the period between December 1997 (summer) and May 1998 (beginning of winter). The quality of protection was assessed by the ratio of unshaded to shaded radiation exposure, the UVB/shade protection ratio (UVB-SPR). The UVB-SPR varies considerably between the different shade settings, with a beach umbrella showing the least protection and dense foliage the highest protection. The roof of a house verandah can provide only little protection if the verandah catches the afternoon sun. Increasing cloud cover decreases the UVB-SPR for all settings because of the increase in the diffuse fraction of the radiation. Only one setting provided a UVB-SPR of 15 or higher, as suggested for protective shading against solar UVB radiation. Shade from direct sunlight alone does not provide enough protection against high levels of solar UVR. Apart from the transmission qualities of the shading material, it is the construction of the whole shade setting that determines the exposure levels underneath. A shade structure with enough overhang is recommended so that high levels of scattered radiation do not reach the skin.
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