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The Scary Reason You Want To Avoid A Window Seat On Your Next Flight

A warning for those of you who like a window seat on the plane: you could be exposing yourself to harmful UV rays.

According to experts, harmful UVA rays can penetrate the glass. Marc Glashofer, MD, a dermatologist at The Dermatology Group tells Condé Nast Traveler that getting sunburned should be worrisome, but not as much as its deadlier counterpart. That’s because there are two types of ultraviolet (UV) rays: UVB rays, which cause sunburn, and UVA rays, which penetrate the skin deeper, potentially causing cancer. While plane windows do a decent job of blocking UVB rays, Glashofer says, they allow the transmission of UVA rays.

According to a recent study examining the repercussions of pilots exposed to UV rays, “Airplane windshields are commonly made of polycarbonate plastic or multilayer composite glass. UV-B (280-320 nm) transmission through both plastic and glass windshields was reported to be less than one percent. However, UV-A (320-380 nm) transmission ranged from 0.41 percent to 53.5 percent, with plastic attenuating more UV radiation than glass.”

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That same study found that pilots flying a plane for just one hour were exposed to UVA rays equivalent to a 20-minute tanning bed session. And don’t let the size of a plane window fool you. Even though they’re small, the hours on a long flight can add up, increasing your risk for skin cancer. So, either pull down the shade or slather on some sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30.


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