Better eye protection against the sun

A young girl wearing dark sunglasses looks toward the sun on a bright day.

Better eye protection against the sun

Sunglasses study could improve Canadian manufacturing standards
June 16, 2016

When you don your favourite shades this summer, keep in mind that they won’t necessarily filter all of the harmful rays that come from the sun. Research from the Université Laval could help change that by informing how sunglasses are manufactured in Canada.

A recent study led by ophthalmology professor, Patrick Rochette, looked at how well sunglasses could protect against solar radiation and, in particular, blue light. Blue light is the visible light in the blue part of the colour spectrum. We are exposed to it from the sun, but also by new compact fluorescent and LED lighting.

According to Health Canada, some scientists believe regular exposure to blue light over many years can accelerate aging of the retina and increase the risk of blindness for people over 60.

At the same time, Canadian filtration standards for sunglasses are more lenient than those of other countries where compliance with manufacturing regulations is mandatory. Canadian standards also do not include recommendations on the filtration of blue light.

Each of the 200 pairs of glasses tested by Rochette’s team — in a laboratory funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation — met Canadian standards, regardless of their price. However, Rochette says their blue light filtration is inadequate and children’s sunglasses are no exception. A lifetime of absorbing solar radiation has consequences for our eyes including increasing the risk of many eye diseases.

Close to 93,000 people in Canada are legally blind and 2.1 million suffer from a loss of vision that cannot be optically corrected. Rochette hopes the results of his study, which will be published this summer, will help to establish mandatory standards for Canadian sunglass manufacturers and in turn mean better protection for our eyes.