UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Impact of Playground Shade Structures on Ultraviolet Radiation Exposure and Physical Activity among Children at a Childcare Facility Corcoran, Breann; Bhatti, Parveen; Peters, Cheryl E; Feldman, Fabio; Darvishian, Maryam


Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada, and rates continue to rise. While sunscreen and protective clothing remain critical strategies to reduce skin cancer risk, shade is generally the most effective way to control exposure. There remains a lack of data, particularly in British Columbia (BC), demonstrating the extent to which shade availability reduces ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure in a real-world setting and the potential impacts of shade provision on physical activity. We evaluated the impact of shade structures on UVR exposure and physical activity at a Vancouver-area childcare center with an outdoor play area with limited existing shade. 22 children, aged 3–5 years, participated in the study. Three removable shade sails were installed in the outdoor play space, and UVR and physical activity measurements were collected during the spring, summer, and fall months. Ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation data was measured using UVB dosimeters, and physical activity data was measured using accelerometers. Data were collected during each season over a total of four days—two days with shade sails installed and two days with shade sails removed. Overall, with shade installation, UVR exposures and physical activity levels among children were reduced by 50% and 20%, respectively. This study supports the use of shade sails to significantly reduce UVR exposures among preschool-aged children in BC; however, the potential for decreased physical activity from shade sails should be further explored in future research.

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