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The danger of poorly made sunglasses

The danger of poorly made sunglasses

Many baby and children sunglasses brands being sold today are by well-meaning mums and dads that have no experience in optics. They normally fall in love with the cuteness of the product but without any optical knowledge make fatal mistakes in their designs and lens quality that can be harmful to the health of your children’s eyes, leading to blindness. We will point out the danger of poorly made sunglasses.

Please never buy “toy sunglasses”.

They don’t offer any UV radiation protection and the lenses material is soft and distorted, blurring the vision. They will also scratch easily causing the eye muscle (ciliary muscle) to constantly work to correct the distortion or scratch, which is impossible leading to the early wearing of prescription glasses.

Don’t buy non-labeled sunglasses.

You would think that with tough sunglasses standards in most countries that this would be enough to stop harmful sunglasses from entering the market. But in many countries these sunglasses standards are self regulated and we still see many well-known baby and children sunglasses brands being sold that don’t comply with the standards or are not tagged correctly with the compulsory standard number for your country. Simply don’t buy any sunglasses unless they are tagged or have the correct labeling with the sunglasses.

Even correctly labeled sunglasses can be dangerous.

Category # 4 lenses without side shields.

Even some sunglasses made to the European standard can cause major eye problems leading to blindness due to an error in the EN ISO 12312-1:2013+A1:2015 standard. In the EN standard, section 11.2 it specifies the Temporal Protective Requirements (side shields) for cat # 4 very dark special purpose sunglasses. All the sizes and positioning of the shields for adult’s sunglasses are given. But for some unknown reason the following was added for children’s sunglasses with cat # 4 lenses. “Note. Children benefit from sunglasses with temporal protection but in the absence of data, no dimensions are published in this edition of the standard.” This has been misinterpreted by some European brands to mean temporal or side shields are not required on children’s sunglasses with cat # 4 lenses and this is wrong. It should have said that “in the absence of data, scale the dimensions to suit” or the data should have been included so there would be no doubt that temporal protection is required on children’s sunglasses with cat # 4 lenses.

Many European brands promote the myth that the higher the category number or (CAT #) the better the quality. This is false. The category number or (CAT #) is only meant to indicate the intended use for the lens shade. The category numbers or (CAT #) are as follows in the chart:

Categories of lens filters
Categories of lens filters

As you can see from the chart, cat # 0 and 1 are not sunglasses and should never be purchased as sunglasses for your children as they have no sun-glare protection and limited UV protection. Even cat # 2 should be avoided as the lenses are still to light to give good sun-glare protection. Cat # 4 lenses are for special purpose only, recommended uses are skiing, mountaineering, etc. where there are excessive amounts of sun-glare that need very dark tinted lenses. These lenses only allow between 3 to 8 % of light to pass through the lens so if worn for normal everyday use your toddler will not be able to see clearly. These sunglasses also require side shields as the lenses are so dark the pupils dilate (open) and any gaps between the frame and the face allows more UV rays to enter the open eye.

The danger of poorly made sunglasses. Dangerous CAT 4 lens with no side shields.
Dangerous CAT 4 lens with no side shields

The above photo clearly shows a European brand with cat # 4 lenses and no side shields. Note that the temples or arms are very narrow so there is limited side protection from UV rays entering a very wide-open pupil. This model is also designed to be worn upside down and this leaves a large gap above the bridge (nose) where UV rays can enter a wide open eye. If your children have a pair of sunglasses with cat # 4 lenses and no side shields please stop using them, they will only cause major eye problems and lead to blindness. And don’t ever use them on the snow fields or your child will suffer from snow blindness.

Therefore, we only recommend you buy cat # 3 lenses for everyday use.

UV protection and the EN and USA standards.

Both the European Standard – EN ISO 12312-1:2013+A1:2015 and the USA Standard – ANSI Z80.3-2018 only classify UV radiation from 200nm up to 380nm not the real 400nm. This means they neglect UV rays between 380nm – 400nm, this missing 20nm is 40% of the total UV radiation. So, when they claim 100% UV protection they mean 60% UV protection. Not good enough for babies or kids.

Some European and USA brands have seen this problem of the missing 20nm of UV rays and then claim their lenses are UV400 or 100% UVA or 100% UVA and B. None of this type of labeling is mentioned in any standards and my concerns are:

  1. If the lenses are UV400 at what level of UV do these lenses start cutting UV light?
  2. If the lenses are 100% UVA what about UVB or UVC?
  3. If the lenses are 100% UVA and B what about UVC?

Remember babies need total UV protection as they have no chromophores in the eyes that protectively absorbs harmful UV rays.

Next installmentframes and lens colour, what’s best and why?

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