The Yin and Yang of light: On the light side (pun intended) we owe our very life and our sight to sunlight but on the dark side, sunlight is pure radiant energy that has the potential to harm our eyes, our skin, our immune system and life on planet earth. OK, that’s a bit morose but here’s the upside: We have the means to prevent exposure and protect our eyes and our skin from damage. Protecting the planet is beyond the scope of this article.
Children’s eyes are disproportionately damaged by UVR before puberty. Why? Because they have larger pupils and clear crystalline lenses that allow more damaging light to penetrate to their defenseless retinae. This is worrisome because photodamage to our eyes builds up over time and compounds. (Babies are the most helpless. Their eyes lack the defenses that form with age. Babies are deficient in antioxidants to fight free radical proliferation that results from light induced oxidative stress. And their crystalline lenses have yet to acquire the UVR absorptive properties of an adult crystalline lens to protect their retina from UVR damage.)
Good news ametropes, your clear prescription lenses can provide sunglass level UVR protection, blocking 100 percent up to 400 nm, exceeding the ANSI ophthalmic lens requirement of 100 percent up to 380 nm.
Our customers come to us for vision correction. We use lenses to manipulate light to correct their refractive error. But we can offer them more than vision correction in their clear lenses—we can provide them with sunglass level UVR protection for their eyes.
Naturally, sunglasses provide the best overall protection from actinic sunlight (UVR and HEV Light) when outdoors. But we have a poor record when it comes to sunglass use according to a VisionWatch consumer survey of 10,000 adults over age 18 conducted by The Vision Council.
This consumer survey informs us that only a third of us on average wear sunglasses all the time outdoors. And less than 8 percent report that their children always wear sunglasses outdoors, making it imperative that we provide our customers, especially the vertically challenged ones, with sunglass level UVR protection in their clear lenses.
Just as moms and dads slather on the sunscreen to protect their child’s skin from sunburn, we need to increase their awareness of the need to protect their eyes.
To learn more about sunglass level UV protection in clear lens materials, you’ll find the CE course “Closing the UV Protection Gap” in July’s KidzBiz supplement and at 2020mag.com/ce.