Exposure to UV radiation over long periods can lead to serious damage to the eyes. Try to protect the eyes all year using sunglasses.

Health Effects of UV Radiation to the Eyes

Too much UV radiation to the eyes can cause short term complaints such as:

  • mild irritation
  • excessive blinking
  • swelling
  • difficulty looking at strong light
  • acute photokeratopathy, also known as sunburn of the cornea or snow blindness.

Exposure to UV radiation over long periods can lead to more serious damage to the eyes such as:

  • cataracts, or cloudiness of the lens
  • cancer of the conjunctiva, the membrane covering the white part of the eye
  • pterygium (pronounced tur-rig-i-um), an overgrowth of the conjunctiva on to the cornea
  • solar keratopathy, or cloudiness of the cornea
  • skin cancer of the eyelids and around the eyes and ocular melanoma.

From 11am to 4pm, when the sun’s rays are the strongest, you can use a hat and / or sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV radiation.

Choosing Sunglasses: What You Need To Know:

  • Wear close fitting, wrap around style sunglasses with a broad-brimmed hat. A broad-brimmed hat can reduce UV radiation to the eyes by 50% but add sunglasses and you can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98%.
  • Check to make sure the sunglasses protect from UVA and UVB.
  • Check if the sunglasses are suitable for driving.
  • Polarized sunglasses reduce glare and make it easier to see on a sunny day.
  • Some prescription glasses provide UV radiation protection – check with your optometrist. If purchasing prescription sunglasses, make sure they are close fitting and wrap around in style.
  • Sunglasses should not be worn at night as this reduces visibility.

Children and Sunglasses

Since eye damage from UV radiation builds over time, it is important to protect the eyes of children, which are particularly sensitive to UV radiation.

Sunglasses designed for babies and toddlers have soft elastic to keep them in place.It is important to choose a style that stays on securely so that the arms don’t become a safety hazard.

Toy sunglasses do not meet standard protective requirements and should not be used for sun protection.

Some young children may be reluctant to wear sunglasses.You can still protect their eyes by putting on a broad-brimmed hat and staying in the shade.

Protection for Outdoor Workers

Some outdoor workers need protection from flying particles, dust, splashing materials and harmful gases. Tinted eye protectors that protect from UVA and UVB provide sun protection, and reduce glare outside.

Sunglasses, worn together with a broad brimmed hat (if necessary can be worn under a hard hat), can reduce the amount of UV reaching the eyes by up to 98%.

During regular daily exposure, driving and otherwise, sunglass lenses should be dark enough to provide comfort, but not dark enough to reduce vision

During water or snow exposure, it is important to block out blue light. Medium to dark lenses with a grey, green, or brown tint will block out most blue light. Intensive daily exposure, such as outdoor work, requires a higher level of protection from sunglasses.

Daytime Driving: General purpose sunglasses are considered sufficient protection during daylight driving. The industry is self-regulated and has three categories of sunglasses:

  • cosmetic sunglasses with lightly tinted lenses
  • general purpose sunglasses with higher protection levels of all light
  • special purpose sunglasses provide the highest protection, but are too dark for driving

We strongly recommend that you read the labels on various sunglasses and seek the advice of an expert.

Downloadable Sun at Work Resources

Sun at Work Canada Infographic 2015

Sun at Work Canada Overview