Hartford Courant: Middletown Swimming Areas Outfitted With UV Index Monitors Promoting Sun Safety
Two Middletown parks, Veteran’s Memorial pool and Crystal Lake, have been outfitted with digital stations that show the real-time UV index. They were installed through an initiative with Middlesex Hospital to keep people safe during the summer from prolonged sun exposure. Amber Kapoor, Health, Education and Grants Coordinator at the Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center, explains how they work.
Originally published by the Hartford Courant.
By: Shawn R. Beals, Contact Reporter
Two public swimming areas in Middletown have been outfitted with kiosks that show the real-time UV index and remind swimmers to protect their skin from the sun.
Veterans Memorial Park Pool and the swimming area at Crystal Lake were outfitted with SOLaware Technologies monitors in early July.
The Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center and the Middletown Health Department split the $250 monthly lease for sensors in an effort to prioritize prevention over treatment.
“The city picked it up and we joined the effort,” said Amber Kapoor, health education and grants coordinator at the Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center. “Middlesex Hospital recognizes the importance of prevention. In general people are very aware, but the reminder while you’re here is good.”
The SOLaware measures the UV index to show the amount of time someone can be exposed to the sun without sunscreen before skin damage will begin to occur.
Levels on the display range from low to extreme, where 10 minutes of sun exposure can lead to skin damage. The extreme level also includes a bright purple light, a jarring color to draw attention to the high levels of UV exposure.
“This tells you how long it will take before there’s potential for skin damage,” Kapoor said. “Within 10 minutes, your unprotected skin can get damaged.”
The kiosks also include tips, using the acronym AWARE — Apply sunscreen, Wear protective clothing, Avoid direct sunlight if possible, Reapply sunscreen every two hours and Enjoy the outdoors after taking protective steps.
“People tend to think about [applying sunscreen] when they first come out, but when you’re here for the afternoon you might not remember to reapply,” Kapoor said.
Darien, North Haven and Wallingford are also using SOLaware units, and several more towns in the shoreline area will be leasing them, said Christina McGrath, a spokeswoman for SOLaware Technologies.
The Middletown Health Department said skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and prevention measures can drastically reduce the chances of skin cancer.
“With the incidence of skin cancer on the rise, our goal is to encourage the use of sunscreen and other protective measures, especially during the summer months,” said Louis Carta, the city health department’s community health educator. “Having these displays at the point of exposure will help remind everyone about the importance of using sunscreen and applying it as needed.”
SOLaware was started a few years ago by two Quinnipiac University graduates, and the business is based in Hamden. Last year the company completed its beta testing with just a few units, and this year a pilot program is bringing them to more communities, McGrath said.
“The mission is really just to raise awareness about sun exposure using digital technology,” McGrath said. “Not only does the display measure the UV level, it translates it into a more usable form.”
Some communities, such as North Haven, are installing the displays in public places like the town green, where sun exposure isn’t given the same priority as the beach.
McGrath said SOLaware hopes to expand next year into southern states, where outdoor activity isn’t as limited by seasons.
At Veterans Park, the display is positioned outside the changing rooms where each visitor will walk past.
“When people see it their first reaction is ‘what the heck is that machine?’” said lifeguard Evan Theis, 18, in his second year working at Vets Pool. “So we tell them about it.”
He said the UV monitor is a helpful reminder to people who might be spending a few hours in the sun. It also generates a little bit of buzz, encouraging more people to use the public pool, he said.
“It brings more people to the pool, people will talk about it. ‘I saw this crazy machine that tells you when to put on sunscreen,’” Theis said.