Skin exposure to infrared (IR) radiation should be limited in terms of irradiance, exposure time and frequency in order to avoid acute or chronic damage. Recommendations aimed at protecting humans from the risks of skin exposure to IR (e.g. ICNIRP, ACGIH) are only defined in terms of acute effects (e.g. heat pain and cardiovascular collapse), whereas the actual exposure conditions (e.g. spectral distribution, exposure geometry, frequency and number of exposures, thermal exchange with the environment, metabolic energy production and regulatory responses) are not taken into consideration. Since the IR component of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface is mainly IR-A, and considering the increased use of devices emitting artificially generated IR-A radiation, this radiation band is of special interest. A number of in vitro and/or in vivo investigations assessing cellular or tissue damage caused by IR-A radiation have been undertaken. While such studies are necessary for the development of safety recommendations, the results of measurements undertaken to examine the interaction between skin and IR radiation emitted from different sources presented in this study, together with the detailed examination of the literature reveals a wide spectrum of contradictory findings, which in some instances may be related to methodological shortcomings or fundamental errors in the application of physical and photobiological laws, thus highlighting the need for physically and photobiologically appropriate experiments.
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