Ultraviolet radiation and health effects in the Antarctic

  • Desmond J. Lugg
  • Colin R. Roy


With the recognition that global climate change may adversely affect human health, there has been an increase in relevant research worldwide. In the Antarctic medical research has been largely directed at the potential health effects of stratospheric ozone depletion. For over a decade continuous broad-band measurements of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) have been made at all Australian stations. Results of UV measurements are presented and comparisons made with the “ozone hole” moving over the stations, erythemal UVR increasing by a factor of more than 2.5 over a three day period. During late spring and despite the large difference in latitude, Davis, Antarctica, and Melbourne, Australia, are very similar in erythemal UVR. Antarctic immunological and photo biological research is presented and the role of UVR discussed. Epidemiological data is reviewed for short-term links between UVR and related disease. With increased awareness of the dangers of UVR and consequent changes in sun-related behavior, the incidence of the acute effects of UVR is much lower than decades ago. As the itinerant Antarctic population spends a maximum of 12-1 8 months at a time in that location it is an excellent control group for studies on the health effects of UVR on permanent populations at similar latitudes in the Arctic.


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How to Cite
Lugg, D. J., & Roy, C. R. (1999). Ultraviolet radiation and health effects in the Antarctic. Polar Research, 18(2), 353-359. https://doi.org/10.3402/polar.v18i2.6595