Screening the Sun

Alex Webb wears ESA’s UV-protection suit
Eight-year-old Alex Webb wears ESA’s UV-protection suit
Normally, people enjoy getting a suntan. But for about 300 Europeans – mostly children – sunshine is the one thing they want most to avoid.
These children suffer from a rare genetic disorder (called Xeroderma Pigmentosum) that puts their lives at risk when they are exposed to the Sun. Their bodies are extremely sensitive to the Sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. This means they cannot go outside in daylight, except with special protection. Unless all UV is blocked, their skin and eyes may be severely damaged, eventually leading to cancer.
Until now, nobody has produced suitable anti-UV clothes for these patients. However, this is now changing with the arrival of a new protection suit that uses ESA space technology. This promises to let the children play safely in daylight for the first time.
Alex Webb and ESA’s UV-protection suit
There are two parts to the suit. The headgear, designed to look 'cool' for children, covers the head and face. It includes a large see-through, polycarbonate visor, an adjustable plastic headband and a fabric hood.

The rest of the suit protects the arms, legs and body, and is designed to be worn under normal clothing. The body suit garment has a special coating used on spacecraft to provide a total UV barrier. In addition, in warm weather, advantage can be taken of a special cooling system – first developed for spacesuits – which is hidden below the normal clothing.
Last update: 19 October 2011

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