By Jill Bert
Iwant to express concern that I have about the upcoming solar eclipse on Monday, Aug 21. There are serious risks associated with viewing a solar eclipse directly, even with the use of solar filter glasses.
We have to keep in mind that the school will encounter the inability to control every aspect of this exercise. The glasses are made for adults, do not fit children well and should not be used without direct parental supervision.
If the solar glasses do not filter out 100 percent of the harmful UV rays, if they are not used absolutely perfectly, or should there be a manufacturing defect in any of them, this will result in permanent and irreversible vision loss for any eye exposed.
Just like sunburn to the skin, the effects are not felt or noticed immediately. I have a great fear that I will have patients in my office on Tuesday, Aug. 22, who will wake up with hazy, blurry vision that I cannot fix. It is a huge liability for the school to direct students to watch the eclipse even with the use of solar glasses. There is no absolutely safe way to do so other than on TV.
The biggest danger with children in school is ensuring proper use without direct parental supervision. As the eclipse passes over Denver, the moon will block 90 percent of the sun. Because so much of its light is blocked by the moon, if one looks at it without full protection, it does not cause pain as looking at the sun does on a regular day.
Normally, if you try to look at the sun, it physically hurts and you can’t see anything. During an eclipse, however, it is easier to stare for a bit … and even less than 30 seconds of exposure to less than 10 percent of the eclipsed sun, you can burn a blind spot right to your most precious central vision. With solar glasses you can’t see ANYTHING except the crescent of light of the sun.
Kids could have a tendency to want to peak around the filter to see what is actually going on up there. As Denver is not in the path of totality, there will be no time where it is safe to view the eclipse without the solar filter.
One failure, just one, where education and supervision fail, will have the ultimate devastating consequence.
Dr. Jill Bert is the owner of Lakefront Eye Care, a medical and pediatric optometry practice in Edgewater.