Popping up a beach cabana when the ultraviolet (UV) radiation index creeps above 3 is a popular way to protect ourselves and loved ones from the sun. But – just like the clothes we wear – not all shade fabrics are created equal when it comes to UV protection.

To make it easier for consumers, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has launched Ultraviolet Effectiveness (UVE) 95+% swing tags for shadecloth products such as umbrellas, tents, cabanas, shade sails and awnings.

Lydia Tjong, Assistant Director, Ultraviolet Radiation Services at ARPANSA, said, ‘The 95+% swing tag rating is the highest protection category available for these types of fabrics. As the Australian Government’s primary authority on radiation protection, we believe this is the minimum protection that all shade fabrics should offer consumers.’

The swing tags can only be used by manufacturers under licence for products that have been tested and approved by ARPANSA’s NATA-accredited laboratories, and which meet the relevant Australian Standard.     

Ms Tjong said that Australia’s high rates of skin cancer and UV-related skin and eye damage means that clear and simple UVE ratings are more important than ever.

‘With so many shade fabrics available in different materials, colours and UVE ratings, it can be confusing for consumers. Just like our Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing swing tags, ARPANSA’s shadecloth tags aim to help people choose products that offer the highest protective rating against Australia’s harsh sun.

‘Two out of three Australians will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime, resulting in about 2,000 deaths every year. The good news is that this disease is almost entirely preventable with effective sun protection.’

Shade is one of the most comfortable forms of personal protection from UV radiation in sunlight. When used effectively, most forms of shade can reduce exposure by up to 50%, especially if used in conjunction with other sun protection measures.

Ms Tjong said that, as well as UV protection, the public should also consider other important factors when using shade.

‘Remember that there is as much scattered solar UV from the sky as there is from the direct sun. This means that UV can enter shade structures from the sides.’

In other words, before you settle into your beach cabana, don’t forget to:

  • slip on UPF 50+ sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible
  • slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF50+ sunscreen, applied 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards
  • slap on a hat – broad brim, bucket or legionnaire style to protect your face, head, neck and ears
  • slide on some quality sunglasses – make sure they meet Australian Standards.

Find out more: Sun protection using shade

Find out more about: Shadecloth product testing

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