Fake solar eclipse glasses flood market, could damage eyes

With less than two weeks before the eclipse — the first total solar eclipse to cross coast-to-coast in 99 years — people are scrambling to buy the special glasses that allow you to watch the cosmic happening unfold safely.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The American Astronomical Society is warning about a “flood” of fake solar eclipse glasses on the market that may damage eyesight if used during the Aug. 21 event.

With less than two weeks before the eclipse — the first total solar eclipse to cross coast-to-coast in 99 years — people are scrambling to buy the special glasses that allow you to watch the cosmic happening unfold safely.

While a 70-mile wide swath of the country from Oregon to South Carolina will experience total darkness for more than two minutes during the eclipse, everyone in North America will see at least a partial eclipse.

But it is only safe to watch with the glasses or a handheld solar filter with the appropriate lenses. Regular sunglasses are not enough to keep out harmful solar rays, even when the sun is partly covered.

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“The problem with fakes is that you can’t know if they’re letting unsafe levels of solar ultraviolet and/or infrared radiation into your eyes,” said Richard Tresch Fienberg, a press officer with the AAS. “You’d never know until it’s too late, because our retinas don’t have pain receptors.”

The AAS previously advised people to look for “ISO 12312-2” printed on the glasses to ensure they complied with international safety standards for filters of direct viewing of the sun.

“But now the marketplace is being flooded by counterfeit eclipse glasses that are labeled as if they’re ISO-compliant when in fact they are not,” AAS said. “Even more unfortunately, unscrupulous vendors can grab the ISO logo off the Internet and put it on their products and packaging even if their eclipse glasses or viewers haven’t been properly tested.”

The only time it’s safe to take the glasses off during the eclipse is in the path of totality during the brief time the sun is fully covered by the moon and only the corona is visible. Florida will experience about 80 percent of the sun being covered by the moon, so it won’t be safe at any time to remove the glasses while viewing the eclipse.

Although the sun is no brighter during an eclipse than on a regular day, it is more comfortable to look at, meaning…

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