UV index high as Montanans try to keep cool
MISSOULA, Mont. - According to the EPA, the UV Index forecast for the Missoula area was at a 9 out of 10 Monday. That number is hovering right around the point where UV alerts are issued. The UV index takes into account how many UV rays are hitting the ground and categorizes them from 1 to 10. When the number is higher, it takes less time to become sunburned. For the next few days in western Montana, the UV Index is at "Very High," in between 8 and 10 on the scale. The area is usually around 6 at this time of year. The high index is due to multiple factors, including lack of cloud cover and ozone activity. "Around UV Index number of 9 or above, people can burn out in the sun in just 15 minutes of exposure," explained Diana Reetz-Stacey, a senior community health specialist at the Missoula City-County Health Department. Reetz-Stacey explained that skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the country, and it's on the rise. She also says people who have five or more sunburns in their lifetime can double their risk of melanoma. "We are definitely in the point where it's a danger," said Reetz-Stacey. Parents at Splash Montana weren't happy to hear about the high UV index, but they made sure to pack the right tools to fight the sun, including proper sunscreen. "I think I think I have two gut reactions, the first is, 'Oh, no.' Skin cancer actually runs in my family," said Missoula resident Becky Douglas. "[My kids] finally have gotten into wearing hats after a lot of battling, so I'll be throwing on some sunscreen," said Douglas. "I don't like it and it worries me but I think we can handle it," said parent Ceridwen Scott. Experts recommend SPF 15 and above and wearing sunglasses to protect against UVA and UVB rays.