Aug 15, 2017 12:00 AM

Author: Moran Eye Center

As the excitement builds and the entire country counts down to the total eclipse of the sun on August 21, ophthalmologists, planetariums, astronomical societies, and the media are all doing their best to get the word out about why and how you need to protect your eyes.

In spite of it all, there’s still some confusion out there—especially in light of Amazon's recall of tens of thousands of fake eclipse glasses—the kind that are supposed to protect your vision from serious damage but, as it turns out, are not certified or remotely reliable.

How to Spot Legitimate Eclipse Glasses

You may have heard that legitimate eclipse glasses have an “ISO certification” and code number printed on them. This is true, but anyone can print the ISO logo.

According to Clark Planetarium director, Seth Jarvis, “Companies that manufacture and/or sell eclipse glasses that have been verified by an accredited testing laboratory to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for solar-viewing products also always include their complete contact information on the glasses: their name, address, phone number, website, and email address. They also include a scannable bar or QR code. So don’t be fooled by the dangerous imposters—even if they’re printed with patriotic stars and stripes. If they don’t include this information they are anonymous. Throw them out.”

He recommended that buyers purchase from the list of Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters and viewers.

Other Ways to Watch the Moon Block Out the Sun

Jarvis is just about as excited as anyone can be about this historic event.

“Sunlight is not any more dangerous during an eclipse than it is any other day,” he says. “It’s just that during an eclipse, people find themselves tempted to look at the sun for more than a few seconds. It’s cool stuff, that’s why they make certified glasses for viewing! But if you don’t have the glasses, you are definitely not out of luck. There are lots of other ways to experience the eclipse.” 

What Can Happen to Your Eyes If You Look at the Sun Through Fake Glasses?

Jeff Petey,MD, of the John A. Moran Eye Center at University of Utah Health, emphasizes that any time anyone looks at the sun, whether it’s on a regular day or during an eclipse, it puts their eyes at risk for potentially permanent damage to their central vision. The more intense the exposure and the longer you look, the more severe the damage.

“Think of your eye as a magnifying glass with light going through the pupil and focusing on one point at the back of the eye. This is where the damage happens, on your retina. There is no pain involved, but you’ll know you’re in trouble if you experience blurred central vision. It’s like when you look at a flash and you see the ‘after image.’ If this effect lingers, if people’s faces are blocked out of your central vision for more than a couple of minutes, see your ophthalmologist or optometrist immediately.”

“This is a momentous event and we hope everyone can find a way to go outside and experience the wonder, whether it’s through an easy, free pinhole projector or safe viewing glasses,” agree Pettey and Jarvis. “Just play it safe.”

vision eclipse blindness

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