If you were hoping to watch this month’s total solar eclipse, you probably know sunglasses aren’t going to cut it. But if you bought special eye wear to witness the big event, you may want to check them again.
Experts warn counterfeit eclipse glasses are flooding the marketplace and being mislabeled as safe.
According to the American Astronomical Society with the National Science Foundation, eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers must meet international safety standards, and filters that don’t meet those requirements can be detrimental to viewers.
“Unfortunately, you can't check whether a filter meets the ISO standard yourself — doing so requires a specialized and expensive piece of laboratory equipment called a spectrophotometer that shines intense UV, visible, and IR light through the filter and measures how much gets through at each wavelength,” according to the AAS website.
Looking directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, without the proper eye wear can cause “serious eye injury, perhaps even blindness,” the website states.
But despite having safety standards and testing, officials said vendors can grab a logo or label claiming certification off the internet, making it difficult to tell if glasses are truly safe.
According to the AAS, buying eye wear from “reputable vendors” and “authorized dealers” is one way to make sure the eye wear is safe (see list of vendors below).
But if you’re looking to test glasses for safety, experts say you shouldn't be able to see anything through the lenses expect the sun itself, or something equally bright.
“If you can see lights of more ordinary brightness through your eclipse glasses or handheld viewer, and you're not sure the product came from a reputable vendor, it’s no good,” the AAS states. “Safe solar filters produce a view of the Sun that is comfortably bright (like the full Moon), in focus, and surrounded by dark sky. If you glance at the Sun through your solar filter and find it uncomfortably bright, out of focus, and/or surrounded by a bright haze, it’s no good. You should contact the seller and demand a refund or credit for return of the product.”
Other things to watch for are if your filters are torn, scratched, punctured or are coming loose.
Among the list of retail chains selling solar viewers at various locations include:
• Best Buy
• Casey's General Store
• Circle K
• Hobby Town
• London Drugs
• Love's Travel Stops
• Pilot/Flying J
• REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.)
• Toys "R" Us