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Technical Report

Solar Ultraviolet Protection from Sunglasses

Rabbetts, Ronald MSc, FCOptom1*; Sliney, David PhD2

Optometry and Vision Science: July 2019 - Volume 96 - Issue 7 - p 523–530
doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001397

SIGNIFICANCE There is substantial scientific uncertainty about the necessary levels of protection in sunglasses to avoid delayed health effects from solar ultraviolet radiation in the ultraviolet A (UV-A) band. The longer-wavelength limit for UV-A and the inclusion of the spectral effectiveness function in the calculation of solar UV-A transmittance are questionable.

PURPOSE There has been a wide range of informed opinion with regard to the level—or even need for—near-ultraviolet filtration (by absorption or reflection) in sunglasses. Many current sunglass filter lenses transmit very little near-ultraviolet radiant energy, whereas others transmit a significant fraction. There also are opposing commercial interests that argue either for strong filtration or for minimal protection. We review the evidence for potential risks and the challenge for the designer of any sunglass lens. It is shown that current standards are not at all cautious in their requirements for near-ultraviolet protection and do not meet a philosophical approach of minimizing needless exposure to optical energy that does not benefit vision.

METHODS The arguments for and against various factors in eye protection from ultraviolet radiation are discussed. The solar UV-A transmittance of some sunglass and clear spectacle lens materials has been calculated using the formulae and methods used in the International Standards Organization sunglass standard. The Annex gives results of the calculations both with and without the S(λ) erythemal weighting function and up to 380 or 400 nm.

RESULTS The solar UV-A transmittance calculated with the S(λ) function and only up to 380 nm gives numerical results that are lower than taking either the upper limit for UV-A as 400 nm or without the S(λ) function.

CONCLUSIONS Most sunglass lenses will still pass the requirements with the more stringent requirements, but some spectacle lens materials will need extra treatment.

1Portsmouth, Hampshire, United Kingdom

2Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland *

Submitted: September 27, 2018

Accepted: February 17, 2019

Funding/Support: Neither of the authors have received funding for writing this article.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure: Neither of the authors has a financial interest in the manufacture or sale of sunglasses or spectacle lenses.

Author Contributions and Acknowledgments: Conceptualization: RR, DS; Formal Analysis: RR; Writing – Original Draft: RR, DS; Writing – Review & Editing: RR, DS.

The spectral transmittance data for the sunglass lenses were provided by Dr. E. Boinard when he worked for Polaroid UK and for the spectacle lenses by Dr. C. Fowler, Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

RR is a retired, formerly practicing optometrist. DS was a former Manager of the Laser/Optical Radiation Program, U.S. Center for Health Promotion & Preventive Medicine, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. Both authors are members of International Organization for Standardization working groups for spectacle lenses, sunglasses, and occupational eye protection.

© 2019 American Academy of Optometry