Unsafe Eclipse Glasses Could Leave Victims Seeing Stars

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Madeleine Jones
September 30, 2017

people wearing eclipse sunglassesScientists warn that fake eclipse glasses can cause burned retinas and irreversible eye damage. Thousands of unsafe eclipse glasses were recently sold by various manufacturers and retailers across the country.

Unsafe Eclipse Glasses

The total solar eclipse that occurred in August 2017, resulted in millions of Americans rushing to purchase eclipse glasses to watch the event. Since the next annular solar eclipse visible in the continental United States will not occur until 2023, manufacturers and national retailers, including Amazon, filling orders for eclipse glasses in record numbers.

To promote an important scientific event, many schools and colleges purchased eclipse glasses for students who had never witnessed a solar eclipse. Peru State College in Nebraska ordered 7,500 solar eclipse glasses for their students but quickly realized that the glasses were fakes. Although the paper-framed glasses appeared to be safe for viewing an eclipse, officials realized that they did not meet NASA safety standards and could put thousands of students at risk of serious, irreversible eye damage, including permanent blindness.

NASA warns that looking directly at the sun in an eclipse can cause permanent eye damage. They emphasize that viewing a partial or total eclipse is only safe when viewed through eclipse glasses or hand-held viewers made with certain solar filters that block out harmful ultraviolet rays. Ordinary sunglasses with dark lenses and homemade filters are not safe for viewing an eclipse. To educate people on safely viewing an eclipse and preventing serious injuries, NASA has a list of safety tips on their website under eclipse safety. The website also gives important information on viewing an eclipse through alternative devices such as telescopes, pinhole cameras, and welding glasses.

Since the August eclipse, ophthalmologists around the country have seen a variety of eye injuries, especially injuries in young people who used unsafe eclipse glasses or did not follow recommendations for safe viewing. The most common eye injury seen by a Las Vegas injury lawyer and ophthalmologists are ghost images where patients see bright spots in the middle of their visual field. In California, a man suffered permanent vision loss caused by the use of fake eclipse glasses. His doctor stated that the damage to his retina was in the shape of an eclipse. Doctors are treating mild eye injuries with anti-inflammatory drugs that help the eyes return to normal, but for people with severe retina damage, there is no treatment. Those injuries are permanent and irreversible.