Question from Dean

Hi Debra,

Are you aware of any health dangers posed by UPF/UV treatments on clothing?


Debra’s Answer

First let me explain what this is.

You’ve probably heard of SPF with regard to sunscreen. That stands for Sun Protection Factor and measures the amount of time it takes for skin exposed to the sun to redden.

UPF is a similar measurement for fabric, which indicates the amount of UV radiation that penetrates a fabric and reaches the skin. To learn more about the UPF rating system and choosing UPF clothing, see this excellent article from REI: How to Choose Sun Protection (UPF) Clothing.

Now to answer your question.

Sun protection fabrics are generally made from synthetic fibers. Those that have chemical additives don’t seem to be disclosing what those chemicals are. The only UPF additive I could find was nanoparticles of titanium dioxide.

I generally don’t recommend synthetic fibers and don’t recommend chemicals that do not disclose what they are.

There are many guidelines that explain how to choose clothing that offers some protection without wearing synthetics or unknown chemicals. Any dark, tightly woven natural fiber will offer protection.

Here’s an article with more information: SUN & SKIN NEWS: Dress to Protect: 5 Things that affect How Well Your Clothes Block UV Rays

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