LIMA – Peru, which receives the world’s highest levels of solar radiation, faces a serious threat to human health with the index expected to set a new record during the current Southern Hemisphere summer.
Just a few years ago, Peru’s meteorological agency, Senamhi, established a scale of ultraviolet solar radiation with a maximum of 15.
The index is expected to reach 15 in Lima by the beginning of next month, “when the normal level used to be 13,” Senamhi’s Orlando Ccora told EFE.
The situation is even more serious in the central and southern regions of Peru, where residents will have to contend with solar radiation levels of up to 20, he said.
Among the factors that make Peru the world leader in solar radiation is proximity to the equatorial region, according to a 2006 study by New Zealand scientist Richard McKenzie.
The study ranked Bolivia in second place, followed by Argentina and Chile.
In Peru, exposure to solar radiation is increased by the environmental pollution that annually destroys around 1 percent of the ozone layer, the section of the atmosphere that filters UV radiation.
Besides “dangerous levels of solar radiation,” this year the El Niño climate phenomenon is raising temperatures on Peru’s Pacific coast and causing droughts in high-altitude regions, Ccora said.
The absence of the usual rain and cloud cover during January and February in Andean regions increases the amount of UV radiation reaching the surface.
Ccora emphasized the need to take measures to prevent the harm caused to health by exposure to UV radiation.
A report published Wednesday in El Comercio newspaper said the increased solar radiation is expected to cause one in every 5,000 people in Peru to develop some type of skin cancer.
The most recent statistics from the Health Ministry, dating from 2011, indicate that skin cancer in Peru is more prevalent among women and people over 50, while greater Lima accounts for 45.9 percent of all cases.