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Wisconsin takes steps to become a SunWise state; state promotes EPA'S sun safety program in all school districts

Release Date: 05/15/2007
Contact Information: William Omohundro, 312-353-8254, omohundro.william@epa.gov Linda Rutsch, 202-343-9924, rutsch.linda@epa.gov (EPA SunWise Program) John Johnson, 608-266-1098, john.johnson@dpi.state.wi.us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No. 07-OPA084

CHICAGO (May 15, 2007) - Today, third-graders from Northside Elementary School, Sun Prairie, Wis., got a special lesson in sun safety from State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster and representatives from Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, Wisconsin's Comprehensive Cancer Control Program and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This event kicked off a statewide effort to make Wisconsin a "SunWise State." EPA, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and Wisconsin's Comprehensive Cancer Control Program joined forces to distribute EPA's K-8 skin cancer prevention program, SunWise, to every school district in the state. More than 400 health educators received the SunWise Tool Kit with lesson plans and activities for learning about sun safety. The kit included a letter urging teachers and students to practice sun safety both at school and at home.

"Our students need to play outside as part of regular physical activity," Burmaster said. "We're excited about becoming a SunWise State because the program is fun and interactive. It teaches children and their families to protect themselves from harmful ultraviolet radiation, even on cloudy days."

UV radiation is known to cause skin cancer, cataracts and other eye damage, immune system suppression, and premature aging of the skin. Yet fewer than 33 percent of adults, adolescents and children routinely use sun protection, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. This year, it is estimated that 59,940 U.S. men and women will be diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and 1,070 of these cases are expected to occur in Wisconsin.

"Teaching sun safety is crucial because nearly half of all new cancers diagnosed in the United States each year are skin cancers," said Mary A. Gade, EPA Regional Administrator. "Skin cancer is largely preventable through the understanding and practice of sun-safe behaviors."

By using EPA's SunWise tool kit, students learn about sun-safe activities, such as wearing sunscreen, seeking shade during midday hours, wearing a hat and sunglasses, and other actions that can significantly reduce their lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.

Surveys have found that students with a SunWise education have 11 percent fewer sunburns and increased knowledge about sun safety when compared to children without a SunWise education.

SunWise is the most widely-used health education program in the United States, with over 20,000 educators registered to use the program. For more information about SunWise, visit www.epa.gov/sunwise or email sunwise@epa.gov. Educators of kindergarten through eighth grade can sign up online to receive a free toolkit.


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