What you need to know about UV protection

What you need to know about UV protection

Before some sunglasses became fashionable spectacles, they actually got one major purpose: UV Protection. This is not very hard to achieve that even low end sunglasses would claim that they have UV400 protection. Therefore, if your sunglasses don’t even claim that they have UV400 or 99%+ UV Protection, or they aren’t even called “Sunglasses” but “Fashionable Spectacles”. We don’t suggest that you wear them outdoor for a long time, and here’s why:

Health impact from ultraviolet radiation (UVR)

Based on scientific findings, it is widely acknowledged by various authoritative bodies like ARPANSA, along with national and international health organizations, including the World Health Organization, that continuous exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) from sunlight has adverse effects on the skin, eyes, and immune system.

Prolonged exposure to UVR poses a significant risk to the eyes, leading to conditions like cataracts, which can cause vision impairment due to clouding in the lens. Additionally, short-term overexposure can result in acute photo-keratitis, commonly known as snow-blindness. Notably, children face a higher vulnerability as UVR can penetrate deeper into their eyes, potentially causing more substantial harm to the lens or retina.

Given that UVR remains unseen to the human eye, it is highly advisable to utilize sunglasses to mitigate or eliminate UVR exposure, especially the more damaging UVB radiation. Consistently reducing UVR exposure throughout one's lifetime proves beneficial in preventing eye damage.

To ensure adequate protection against solar UVR, sunglasses complying with the Australian sunglass standard are highly recommended for both children and adults. The wrap-around type, offering UVR protection from the sides, provides substantial safeguarding for the eyes.

 

Australian standard: AS/NZS1067:2016

In Australia, there exists a compulsory safety standard for sunglasses and fashion spectacles. Since 1 July 2019, all sunglasses and fashion spectacles, regardless of whether they have uniform tint, are polarized, photochromic, or have gradient-tinted lenses, must undergo testing and receive labeling in adherence to the Australian/New Zealand Standard for Sunglasses and Fashion Spectacles (AS/NZS 1067:2016 Eye and face protection: Sunglasses and fashion spectacles). This standard establishes specific limits for the permissible light and Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) transmittances for fashion spectacles and sunglasses designed for both adults and children.

Sunglasses that have been tested according to Australian requirements offer superior UVR protection compared to those tested against international standards. By wearing sunglasses that meet the Australian standard, individuals can ensure their eyes receive adequate protection against UVR-induced damage.

For outdoor workers, tinted eye protectors that meet the Australian standard for occupational eye protectors (AS/NZS 1337 Personal eye protection: Eye and face protectors for occupational applications) are available. These protective eyewear options not only provide UVR protection but also reduce glare during outdoor activities. Additionally, untinted eye protectors marked with an 'O' also offer sufficient UVR protection for outdoor use. It is important to note that eye protectors are not evaluated for their suitability while driving.

Rating and category

Non-prescription glasses with light tints with category 0 or category 1 ratings are called fashion spectacles and provide little or no UVR absorption or glare reduction. Sunglasses have darker tints than fashion spectacles and are labelled as category 2, 3 or 4 sunglasses.

Very dark or highly-coloured lenses may affect your ability to see clearly during activities like driving and recognising traffic lights. Category 2 and 3 sunglasses are recommended for everyday use, while category 4 sunglasses are very dark special purpose sunglasses that are recommended for use in high glare environments such as at sea, on snowfields, in deserts or on mountains.

 

Why Australian Standard

There are several others international standard for sunglasses, such as:

  • US: ANSI Z80.3:2010
  • European: EN1836:2005

However, we suggested that Australia’s standard has got the highest standard in terms of the testing process. Here’s why.

Australia's unique geographic location, with a significant portion situated near the equator and experiencing a high number of sunny days annually, coupled with its proximity to the sun during the Australian summer (closer than the Northern Hemisphere summer), contributes to its distinctive solar exposure. Moreover, the Southern Hemisphere benefits from cleaner air, allowing more Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) to reach the earth's surface compared to the Northern Hemisphere. Furthermore, the outdoor-oriented lifestyle embraced by Australians amplifies these factors. Consequently, individuals in Australia are exposed to approximately 15% more solar UVR compared to their counterparts residing in equivalent Northern Hemisphere locations.

This distinct context elucidates the stringent approach adopted by Australia's standards to safeguard its citizens, emphasizing robust UV protection requirements for sunglasses, firmly enforced by law.

Australia maintains 400 nm as the defined upper limit for the UV range, in contrast to other sunglass standards that utilize 380 nm. The regulatory framework in the Australian sunglass industry involves imposing substantial fines and banning the sale of non-compliant sunglasses, at times involving prominent brand names. Such measures underscore Australia's commitment to preserving the well-being of its population from the hazards of excessive UVR exposure.

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