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Examining the Bottom Line of Sunburn

August 26, 2003|Melinda Fulmer | Times Staff Writer

Should sunburn be added to the list of demons tormenting California's economy?

University of Texas researchers say yes, pointing to a new study that suggests scorched skin takes a toll on company profits in coastal communities around the country.

Surveyors interviewed nearly 100 sun worshippers at Galveston, Texas, beaches and found that 16% of those who were sunburned said they missed an average of two workdays annually because of blistered bodies.

Extrapolating the findings to Galveston's 3 million annual visitors, dermatology professor Richard Wagner and his colleagues pegged the total cost of sunburns in that region at $40 million.

Could the ultraviolet rays beamed down on millions along Southern California's 224 miles of beaches be part of what's keeping the local economy less than sunny side up?

"I think for California beaches, the cost to employers from sunburn is probably offset by the exercise and relaxation benefits to employees," said Tom Lieser, senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

As for the cost: "Compared with hangovers, that probably doesn't even register," he said.

Still, Wagner says economists shouldn't discount the effect that red skin has on black ink, noting that more than a third of sunburned respondents missed eight days of work or more.

"The economic impact of sunburn is potentially enormous," says Wagner, co-author of the report in this month's Archives of Dermatology.

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