Peak solar UV radiation (UVR) intensities are typically experienced in summer months. People living in the southern states of the United States, where the UVR frequently exceeds the recommended minimum erythema dose (MED), are at particular risk, especially outdoor workers. The present study analyzed summertime MED readings in Houston, TX, to assess the frequency of intensities regarded as unhealthy. The study also sought to assess whether UV-blocking hydrogel contact lenses provide ocular protection from these high doses.
Readings, taken at midday using a UVR biometer, were analyzed to assess the potential UVR risk. The spectral response of the meter, modified by the spectral transmission curves of the contact lenses, allowed us to mathematically assess the ocular protection provided. In addition, ambient UVR measurements were taken at midday, using a portable UVR radiometer. The detector was adapted so that a standard diameter hydrogel contact lens could be placed over it to quantify the UV-blocking capabilities of the lens.
The MED readings showed that the recommended safety standards were exceeded approximately at local midday 90% of the time. Model calculations and empirical data demonstrated that contact lenses attenuated the MED readings by up to 90%, bringing them well within the recommended Environmental Protection Agency safety standards.
The efficacy of the model used in this study was verified through direct comparison of the modeled and measured data. UV-blocking hydrogel soft contact lenses reduce the MED to the human eye and therefore limit the lifetime ocular dose. These lenses are highly recommended to prevent the development of UVR-related ocular pathologic conditions.