Sunglasses Safety FactSheetHS05-045A (9-05)
Sunglasses aren’t just fashion accessories. They are a
necessary protection for the eyes. Most consumers know
about the danger of sun exposure to the skin, but many are
unaware that the sun’s rays can damage the eyes. To cor-
rectly shield the eyes, the right type of sunglasses must be
worn, especially since wearing the wrong type can cause
more damage than not wearing glasses at all.
The eyes are susceptible to being burned by sunrays.
The cornea, lens, and retina are all vulnerable to overexpo-
sure of ultraviolet (UV) rays. Over time these UV rays—in- Choose Your Color Wisely
visible to the human eye—can harm the eye if left unpro-
tected. Workers who are heavily exposed to sunlight should
Different lens tints filter different wavelengths of light.
protect their eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses.
Some may enhance or distort colors and affect contrast.
Sunglasses help in two important ways. They filter light
and protect the eyes from damaging UV rays. Long-term
• Green—Allows true color perception and good con-
exposure to UV rays can lead to cataracts, macular de-
trast in bright light; reduces eyestrain in bright light.
generation, or skin cancer around the eyelids. Sunglasses
• Gray—Allows true color perception, but does not
should be worn outdoors to protect the eyes.
enhance contrast; good for cycling or running.
• Brown—Good in hazy sun, enhances contrast; good
• Amber—Brightens cloudy, hazy, or foggy skies; ex-
cellent for contrast; minimizes eyestrain; distorts color
It is important to look for the clear substance in sun-
• Yellow—Improves contrast and depth perception in
glasses which blocks harmful ultraviolet light. Tinted
glasses without UV protection cause more harm than wear-
• Red—Excellent depth perception in low light; con-
ing no glasses. Individuals can protect their eyes by simply
trast objects against blue or green backgrounds.
wearing sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of UV.
• Mirrored—Reflects high-intensity light to reduce
Such glasses protect the eye from both UV-A—and the
more harmful—UV-B rays. Studies show that exposure to
ultraviolet light can contribute to a number of ocular com-
Q: Am I at risk for eye problems caused by UV rays?
plications, including: photokeratitis or “snow blindness”;
A: Everyone is at risk for eye problems caused by the
cataracts; pterygium (an abnormal growth on the eye’s
sun. Even children are at risk for damaging their eyes.
surface); macular degeneration; and even cancer. Tinted
The risk of sun related eye problems is higher for
contact lens do not protect against harmful rays.
Some tips for protecting the eyes in the sun.
• Wear a wide-brimmed hat or cap. This keeps out
sunlight from directly overhead, which can slip past
• are on certain medicines, such as tetracycline, sulfa
• Never look directly at the sun, even through sunglass-
drugs, birth control pills, diuretics, and tranquilizers
es, because doing so can cause permanent damage to
that increase the eye’s sensitivity to light.
• Wear sunglasses and a hat if taking medications that
Q: What type of sunglasses should I get?
increase the sensitivity of the eyes to light, such as
A: When buying sunglasses, look for a label that tells
tetracycline (Achromycin V, Sumycin) or allopurinol
how much UV radiation the lenses of the sunglasses
reflect. Experts say that sunglasses should block 99-
100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B rays. They need
to cover the entire eye area, including eyelids.
Q: What type of glasses should I wear while working?
The following are tips for purchasing safety sunglasses:
A: While conventional sunglasses may protect the eyes
from glare, they do a poor job of protecting eyes from
• glasses should be lightweight and adjustable;
the industrial hazards of chemical splashes, flying
• label should indicate 99 or 100 percent UV protection;
objects, and dust. In fact, conventional sunglasses can
• look for sunglasses that are close fitting to prevent UV
present their own hazards in the workplace. It is a fact
that the frame and lenses used in safety sunglasses are
• look for larger lenses or wrap-around sunglasses to
stronger than the frame and lenses used in conven-
prevent light or other harmful substances from enter-
tional sunglasses. When an object strikes the lens of
the safety sunglasses it is very unlikely that the lens
• don’t be misguided by price—higher priced safety
would dislodge. This is not true of conventional eye-
sunglasses usually reflect fashion, not UV protection;
wear, especially those types with wire frames. When
an object strikes the lens of conventional sunglasses,
• know that dark-colored sunglasses don’t necessarily
the lens shatters, showering the wearer’s eye with
provide better protection, because the chemical coat-
shards of glass or plastic. With a pair of approved
ing applied to the lens responsible for UV protection
safety sunglasses, the lens may break, but it will not
Remember, your sunglasses will not make you look bet-
Safety sunglasses can also have shields to reduce the
ter, see more comfortably or protect your eyes when they
risk of foreign objects reaching the eye from the sides, top, are in your purse, pocket or on the dashboard of your car.
or bottom. Regular sunglasses do not. Because sunglasses
Protect your eyes whenever you go outside, no matter how
have a darkened lens, some people mistakenly believe these briefly.
glasses will provide the needed protection when welding,
Remember to practice safety. Don’t learn it by accident.
brazing, or cutting. A darkened lens will not protect eyes
from the infrared (IF) and ultra-violent (UV) radiation.
This fact sheet was published with information from the
Wearing glasses with darkened lenses that are not made for Mayo Clinic, Prevent Blindness America, and the Texas
industrial applications can actually be more dangerous than Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensa-
wearing no glasses at all. This is because the eye attempts
tion (TDI/DWC) and is considered factual at the time of
to compensate for less light by opening the pupil wider.
In turn, this allows more of the damaging radiation in. For
adequate protection from the visible light produced by
wielding, the lens must be a specific shade. Sunglasses are
Q: What should you look for when selecting safety sun
A: First, be sure the glasses are indeed safety eye wear,
by checking to see if they comply with American
National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards, the
organization which sets the criteria for safety eyewear.
Look for “Z87.1.” This is the ANSI designation iden-
tifying the glasses as approved safety eyewear.
Division of Workers’ Compensation (TDI/DWC)
or call 1-800-687-7080 for more information.
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