Ultraviolet-B Radiation Fears Overblown

By relying too heavily on a few vocal alarmists, the article “Living under depleted skies” (World, Dec. 20) gave a very misleading impression about the Antarctic ozone hole. In truth, fears that the ozone hole would allow a dangerous increase in cancer- causing ultraviolet-B radiation (UVB) have proved to be greatly overblown. The article quotes two researcher activists from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Punta Arenas, Chile (the largest city in the vicinity of the ozone hole) who, we are told “conducted the only detailed studies of local sunburns, skin cancer and ultraviolet-B ray levels.” They claim there has been an increase in skin cancers attributable to the ozone hole. Completely ignored in the article was a far more extensive study written by a team of distinguished Johns Hopkins University and University of Chile researchers, which concluded that the Antarctic ozone hole has had no discernable impact on public health. This study, also conducted in Punta Arenas and published in the American Journal of Public Health, stated that “no increase in patient visits of conditions attributable to UVB exposure was seen for periods of known ozone depletion compared with control periods.” The study also concluded that the measured increase in UVB levels was too small to be of consequence. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />