Watch Out: Students unaware of need for correct eye protection during eclipse

On Saturdays in Athens, Sanford Stadium is packed with fans watching the Bulldogs play football in the hot Georgia sun through their favorite pair of sunglasses. But on a Monday before football season even started, Georgia fans filled the stadium wearing a different kind of glasses.

Some students did not understand the need for special eyewear while watching the solar eclipse despite the University of Georgia’s event for viewing the eclipse in Sanford Stadium offering solar eclipse viewing glasses to the first 10,000 people.

“I’ll probably put on some sunglasses and go watch it,” said Grant Spain, a sophomore from Dacula before the eclipse.

Spain was not alone. In a survey posted across different UGA student Facebook pages, 2 out of 53 people said they would be wearing sunglasses to view the eclipse. One person said they were planning on protecting their eyes by staying inside and watching through a window. However, watching through a window is no better than viewing it from outside and according to Dr. Nadine Forché, an optometrist at Five Points Eyecare, sunglasses will not cut it either.

“Places that are in the path of totality, where it is 100 percent, they will be able to take off their glasses and be able to witness it with their bare eyes,” said Dr. Forché. “In Athens, we are not going to be in the path of totality, so we can never take off the eclipse glasses.”

This year the eclipse had a path of totality that crossed over an area of North Georgia, leaving Athens in the 99 percent range on August 21. A total solar eclipse had not passed over the continental United States since 1979 and everyone was searching for those special eclipse glasses.

“Regular sunglasses aren’t dark enough, layering sunglasses isn’t dark enough. If you look at a true pair of eclipse glasses, and you put them on, it’s like being in darkness.”

These eclipse-viewing glasses are certified, as seen by the ISO 12312-2 demarkation. (Photo/ Maxime Tamsett)

People should have purchased these eclipse glasses from a registered vendor or retailer listed at the American Astronomical Society’s webpage. Some people bought glasses from websites like Amazon and later reports of counterfeit glasses ran across national platforms.

Amazon itself is not listed as reputable vendor by AAS but it is technically more of a marketplace so vendors who are recognized may be selling through Amazon.

The glasses must have been ISO 12312-2 certified to fully protect your eyes, according to Dr. Forché.

The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication provided glasses to students on the day of the eclipse, according to an email from the Grady UGA Listserv. Originally the college had mistakenly ordered some glasses that were considered counterfeit but the problem was corrected before glasses could be handed out.

“We actually ordered two batches. The first batch we ordered was hoax and we figured it out,” said Janice Hume, a department head in the Grady College. “The second batch of glasses we ordered we made sure that it came from the list of the approved vendors.”

Hume said the first batch of glasses even had the correct symbols and serial number to be considered legitimate but after stories came out about how some glasses were counterfeit, the organizers at Grady determined their first batch was a hoax. Since their second batch came from the approved vendors list, Hume said students will be protected. This was a priority from the beginning of talks about providing glasses for students because if you use the incorrect kind of protection you are subject to damaging  your vision.

“That light gets concentrated four times more than it would be normally because of the lens inside your eye, and it basically burns the retina,” said Dr. Forché. “The symptoms afterwards would be like spots in your vision. Because it is your central vision, it can affect your visual acuity.”

Even though Athens was not in the path of totality the eclipse was a once in a lifetime event for most people. There was no shortage of informed themselves of the event either

“I’ve heard a lot about how it’s supposed to be dangerous but also how it’s supposed to be really cool,” said Cameron McCarthy, a freshman from Gainesville.

In the survey of UGA students on Facebook, 31 out of 53 people said they had heard about both the dangers and how to stay safe via social media. Fifteen people said that the university had informed them. There are still people who do not fully understand the dangers. Even using a phone or camera to take a photo could result in damage to your equipment and your eyes.

“Don’t pick up your phone and take pictures unless you know how to do it properly, and just witness this event. It’s going to be amazing,” said Dr. Forché.

Story by Ansley Gentry, Nicolle Sartain, Maxime Tamsett and Casie Wilson

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