Abstract This study compared how well minimal erythema doses predicted using the reference action spectrum for UV erythema proposed by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) in 1987 agreed with those observed in phototesting a large number of subjects with normal responses to sunlight to six different wavelengths of UV radiation (UVR) between 300 and 400 nm. It was found that, within the limits of experimental error, the hypothesis that the CIE reference action spectrum is a valid predictor of the erythemal effectiveness of different wavelengths of UVR could not be dismissed. There is no strong reason, therefore, why the CIE action spectrum should not continue to be used as a reference to compare the erythemal effectivenesses of different broadband sources. However, close examination of the residuals from the regression analysis suggested that the erythemal sensitivity of skin at longer UV wavelengths (>350 nm) in the population studied here is greater than predicted from the CIE reference action spectrum.