You may have heard people, including me, refer to ultraviolet (UV) radiation as a class 1 carcinogen, but not really understand what this means. Don’t worry, I was the same until I did a bit of research and found out what all the fuss was about.
Basically a carcinogen is something that causes cancer in humans. But it is not that simple because some things the scientists know will cause cancer, and others they are still researching but are pretty sure they cause cancer. This is why they put different things in classes.
Class 1 means that it is known that this substance causes cancer in humans. UV radiation is in this category, because science has shown that UV causes between 95-99% of skin cancers in humans. And UV is in good company in this class, which also has asbestos, tobacco and a range of chemicals with scary names. Any tradie with half a brain is aware of the risk of asbestos on a worksite, but so many aren’t aware that UV radiation is also in the same carcinogen class.
It is not really complicated. All it means is that overexposure to UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer, and if you work outdoors, or have people who work for you outdoors, UV radiation is considered a hazard and protection is required from it under Occupational Safety and Health legislation. So when you are working outdoors, make sure you cover up and protect yourself; your family and your skin will thank you for it.