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Sunglasses and Eye Protection

Potential Effects of Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation on the Eyes

UV radiation can damage the surface and internal structures of the eye.
Individuals of all eye colors are at risk.

 Long-term exposure to UV radiation can lead to:
Snow Blindness (Photokeratitis):

A temporary but painful burn to the
cornea caused by a day at the beach without sunglasses; reflections off
of snow, water, or concrete; or exposure to artificial light sources such
as tanning beds.


A non-cancerous growth on the sclera that extends onto the cornea, with the potential to impair vision
 Skin Cancer around the Eyelids: Basal cell carcinoma is the most
common type of skin cancer to affect the eyelids.

Choosing the Right Sunglass

Look for sunglasses that block 99-100 % of UV-A and UV-B radiation.   Glasses with this level of protection are often labeled UV 400.   Gray or gray-green lenses reduce the light damage and still preserve near normal color perception.  The color of the sunglass lens and its cost has very little correlation to its effectiveness.  Polarized lenses reduce glare from the water surfaces, so will be of benefit to fisherman – but do not add much value in general use.  Wrap-around sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat adds an extra layer of protection because they block UV rays from entering the eyes from the sides and above. A recent study suggests UV protection can be incorporated into soft contact lenses.

For further information:

The American Academy of Ophthalmology
The National Eye Institute
Environmental Protection Agency
US Government Publication #6025 (Office of Air & Radiation) EPA- 430-F-07-025