BMW and Mercedes drivers are twice as likely to develop skin cancer and cataracts from harmful UV rays, a new study reveals.
Researchers found that side windows of some Mercedes and BMW models blocked less than 60 per cent of UVA – ultraviolet rays.
Decades of research confirm prolonged exposure to UV light – even when it is cloudy – dramatically increases one’s risk of vision damage and cancer.
While windscreens protected drivers from around 98 per cent of UVA, the side windows on cars differed dramatically in their performance.
Risky? Researchers found that side windows of some Mercedes and BMW models blocked less than 60 per cent of UVA rays – driving up one’s risk of cataracts and skin cancer
Tests on 29 cars from 15 manufacturers showed Lexus cars offered best all-round protection, with side-windows stopping between 92 and 96 per cent of UVA.
The worst performing car was the 2009 Mercedes E550 which stopped just 44 per cent of UVA in its side windows.
Meanwhile some newer BMW models only offered 55 per cent side window protection, despite scoring 96 per cent for windscreens.
The 2012 Porsche Turbo S also scored 96 per cent UVA protection for windscreens but 56 per cent for side windows.
Audi’s blocked up to 64 per cent of UVA despite their windscreens stopping 96 per cent of harmful rays.
The research was conducted by the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute in Los Angeles, USA, using a portable UVA light meter.
Previous studies have shown that Ultraviolet A (UVA) light exposure on one side of the face can increase the risk of cataract or cancer in that area.
Dr Brian Boxer Wachler, who led the study, raised concerns over the lack of side window protection in top-end cars.
He said: ‘We tested 29 automobiles from 15 manufacturers.
‘While the front windshields provide a high and consistent level of UVA protection, most side windows are poorly equipped to do so.
CARS WITH BEST UVA PROTECTION
BEST: Lexus Rx350 2011
1. Lexus Rx350 2011 (96%)
2. Mercedes S Class 5550 2013 (95%)
3. VW Golf 2014 (82%)
CARS WITH WORST UVA PROTECTION
WORST: Mercedes E550 2009
1. Mercedes E550 2009 (44%)
2. BMW 320i 2013 (55%)
3. Porsche Turbo S (56%)
‘UVA light is also linked to increased risk of cataract formation.
‘And a higher prevalence on one side of the face has been reported, and it has been suggested that higher UVA light exposure during driving might play a role.
‘With each automobile, we measured the external ambient UVA levels with the meter pointed toward the sun.
‘Then we moved the meter inside the car, on the driver’s side, and again pointed it toward the sun through the side window and immediately after through the front windshield.’
A high percentage of UVA blockage, varying from 95 per cent to 98 per cent, was found in the windscreens of all the cars tested but when it came to the side windows that figure dropped to an average of just 71 per cent.
The results were variable even among cars made by the same manufacturer.
For example, the Mercedes S Class offered 95 per cent protection in the side windows while the E Class only offered 44 per cent protection.
Dr Wachler added: ‘Type of glass, glass color and coating are the main factors behind the variable amount of UVA protection, while the year of manufacturing was not consistently significant.
‘Interestingly, some older cars offer a higher protection, while specific manufacturers, such as Mercedes and Lexus, have enhanced side window protection in more recent models.
‘Windscreens are constructed with two glass panes having a layer of clear plastic in between, which makes the windshield shatterproof in case of accident and also contains the polymers that filter UVA light.
BOTTOM THREE: The BMW 320i 2013 was rated second-worst with just 55 per cent coverage
TOP THREE: The VW Golf 2014 was rated third-best with 82 per cent UVA light protection
‘Side windows, on the other hand, are made of a single glass pane that may or may not contain a high level of protective UVA filter components.
‘We hope to have raised awareness with this study about the need to enhance UVA protection in side windows.
‘The same recommendations could be extended to the manufacturing of glass for residential buildings, hospitals and schools.’
Scientists also found that tinted windows – blackened using a special film – don’t offer any additional UVA protection, because it only blocks visible light.
Leading laser eye surgeon Dr David Allamby warned that drivers who clock-up high mileages should wear protective sunglasses to block out UVA rays.
Dr Allamby, director of London’s Focus Clinic, said: ‘What’s worrying for eye surgeons is that nine out of ten Brits are completely unaware that ultraviolet radiation (UV) can damage their eyes.
‘Prolonged exposure to UV light can be responsible for potentially blinding ailments like cataracts, macular degeneration and even sunburn of the eyes.
‘That’s a condition called ‘Photokeratitis’, and in mild cases a sufferer might experience a ‘gritty’ sensation and a headache, but in extreme circumstances a victim will be in intense, unbearable pain with the effects lasing for up to a week.
‘If you’re driving in the sun for any period of time, ensure you’re wearing sunglasses certified for UVA, as well as UVB, protection.
‘And be warned: even if it’s cloudy and overcast, the sun still has the power to really damage your eyes.
‘That’s where people slip up – they think the sun has gone in and then neglect to wear their sunglasses when they hit the road, which could cause damage to their eyes in the long term.
‘Hopefully this new study will prompt more manufacturers to re-assess the UVA protection afforded in their side windows, because ideally they’d offer the same protection as the well-performing windscreens do.’