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Friday, May 19, 2000
Dandelions and the Davis Centre both mirror the spring sun: this photo by Alexander Frakking, mechanical engineering student, was not taken during the current rainy week
That advice from optometry professor Tony Cullen, which appeared in last week's Gazette, is based on some 30 years of research into the hazards of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. To help the UW community make informed decisions about how long to stay in the sun and what precautions to take, he and optometry systems specialist Chris Mathers plugged a UV meter on the roof of the Optometry building into a new web site.
The site charts UV readings at 15-minute intervals throughout the day, along with a legend to translate those numbers into the time it takes to burn. As well, links to the school of optometry, Environment Canada, and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society provide information about the effects of UV and how to avoid eye damage.
Aside from causing premature aging and skin cancer, too much exposure to UV is associated with skin cancer of the eyelids -- not a pretty sight -- as well as cataracts, macular degeneration and numerous other eye conditions.
"People don't need to be unduly alarmed," says Cullen, "just take reasonable precautions," particularly when levels hit the moderate range (a UV index value of 4 to 7) and above. "In Canada, most sunglasses provide good protection."
Research has shown that the effects of UV radiation are cumulative over the years, he adds, with most damage occurring in childhood when cells may be more sensitive.
Other factors that affect the impact of UV exposure are the time of day, the season, cloud cover, elevation, length of time spent in the sun and clothes worn. People with blue eye are more susceptible to both eye and skin problems from ultraviolet rays, Cullen notes.
Originally installed about five years ago as part of a system of monitoring devices for a commercial weather network, the UV meter on the roof of Optometry is no longer needed for those readings. "It seemed a waste not to be making use of it," says Cullen. Future plans include using the information from the web site for displays in both the Museum of Visual Science and Optometry and the Eye Care Centre to promote the use of sunglasses for eye protection.
The Alternative Fuels Team from Waterloo is pitted against Alberta, Windsor and a dozen American universities in the week-long competition, which will test student-designed vehicles that burn alcohol rather than gasoline. They'll be tested for such things as performance, emissions, driveability and fuel economy. Waterloo's entry is an E85 Silverado that has already won some awards -- and the team is hoping for more kudos after upgrading the fuel system and making technical changes that should improve the car's cold starts.
Competition started last weekend in Ottawa, and the cars reach Toronto today, where participants will hold a news conference at Queen's Park. The event winds up in Windsor on Saturday.
The added inspections under the Residential Energy Efficiency Project are supported by $5,000 each from Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge, matched by $15,000 from Waterloo Region. REEP is operated by UW's faculty of environmental studies and the Elora Centre for Environmental Excellence.
REEP is designed to help "create a personal and collective will" to save energy, money and the environment, said UW Ian Rowlands, environment and resource studies professor and a member of the REEP management team. To date, REEP has performed energy evaluations for more than 800 homes, using the rating tool EnerGuide for Houses, a product designed by the Office of Energy Efficiency at Natural Resources Canada.
After a home is checked out, the homeowner receives a detailed report of the residence's efficiency and suggestions for changes that can improve energy efficiency and lower energy bills by an average of 20 per cent. In a follow-up visit, energy advisers check to see that retrofit work was properly installed or constructed and is functioning efficiently and saving energy. REEP also offers training and employment for students and provides research opportunities on social marketing and "green energy" issues.
Benefits to the three communities from REEP include an "economic stimulus" estimated at more than $5 million since the project began last year, and a reduction of about 3.8 tonnes of annual carbon dioxide emission for each house tested, "resulting in a significant cumulative reduction in greenhouse gas emissions", according to a news release.
The original funding for REEP was a $220,000 grant from the federal Climate Change Action Fund. "A wide range of partners have expressed their support for this project," said geography professor Paul Parker, a member of the REEP management team. "This support from the federal government and now the regional municipality and the three local cities indicates their commitment to support innovative projects to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Canada."
Says Jane Brewer, mayor of Cambridge: "The home energy evaluation give individuals 'doable' home improvement projects that are beneficial to them by reducing their home energy costs and to all of us by reducing air pollutants that contribute to smog, acid rain and respiratory disease, as well as global climate change."
"It's all about making more sustainable, healthier communities," said Ryan Kennedy, a UW graduate student working as an intern for REEP. "We can take action to help ourselves and help the environment."
Homeowners interested in participating in the project should call the REEP office at ext. 6661 or e-mail reep@fes.
Of course some key services continue as always:
Certainly there will be action -- rhythm! -- over the weekend at the Ron Eydt Village conference centre. Coming in today are about 100 participants in the annual Ontario Folk Dance Camp. Meanwhile, the week-long conference on environmental and protected natural areas is winding up. Among the speakers today will be Richard Sellars of the U.S. National Parks Service. His topic: "The Impact of Culture and Tradition on Natural Resource Management".
Finally, a note that voting in the staff association election winds up today. Office manager Barb Yantha notes that ballots must be received in the staff association office by the last mail this afternoon. The votes will be counted on Tuesday morning, and we should know on Wednesday who will be the association's new president-elect.
Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
firstname.lastname@example.org | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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