Guest opinion: How to be safe during Monday’s eclipse | PostIndependent.com

Guest opinion: How to be safe during Monday’s eclipse

J. Ryan Zwelling

Dr. Ryan Zwelling

As America gears up for Monday's solar eclipse, there are a few vital points to remember when it comes to protecting your eyes and those of your loved ones.

The two most important things to keep in mind are that it is only safe to view the sun without eye protection for people in the total eclipse zone during a total eclipse (see below) and that sunglasses (whether they have prescription lenses or not) are not safe for viewing the sun, during an eclipse or otherwise.

Please take the time to educate yourself prior to this year's eclipse with the following recommendations from the Colorado Optometric Association.

What is a solar eclipse?

Solar eclipses occur when our moon gets between the sun and our planet, obscuring the sun temporarily.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the sun is completely obstructed by the moon and is the only brief time it is safe to view the sun's corona (atmosphere) without eye protection. On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will occur from coast-to-coast across the United States.

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Beginning near Lincoln Beach, Oregon, and cutting diagonally across the country until ending near Charleston, South Carolina.

The following list are those states along its path and thus, most directly impacted: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Although Colorado is not included among those states to experience a total eclipse, it remains vital to educate yourself, as well as your family and friends, regarding how to protect yourselves from harm while enjoying this sometimes once-in-a-lifetime astronomical wonder.

Glenwood Springs is likely to experience a 90 percent eclipse at 11:42 a.m. Monday.

Tips to be safe

This year's phenomenon will last less than two hours in its entirety, with totality (only viewable in certain cities) lasting less than 3 minutes. The total eclipse will turn day to night and drop temperatures by as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. 

It is never safe to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun.

Although the specific states listed above may experience a brief phase of totality, during which the sun may be viewed safely with the naked eye, outside of this, failure to follow proper observing methods for the eclipse may result in permanent eye damage and severe vision loss.

To prevent injury, all observers are advised to wear eye protection in the form of approved eclipse glasses that meet occupational eye and face protection standards. These types of "eclipse glasses" have a thin layer of chromium or aluminum deposited on the surface that protect our eye from harmful infrared and visible light rays.

Sunglasses (prescription or not; polarized or not) and smoked glass do not contain these layers and as such are never safe for direct viewing of the sun.

According to Dr. Jon Pederson, president of Colorado Optometric Association, "The main eye health concern regarding direct sun exposure is 'eclipse blindness' or retinal burns caused by high-intensity visible light. This exposure causes damage to the light-sensitive rods and cones of our retina, known as solar retinopathy. This damage may result in temporary or permanent vision loss and often takes hours, not seconds, to appear or manifest."

For more information about the eclipse, go to http://www.visioncare.org.

Dr. Ryan Zwelling joined 20/20 Eyecare in 2007.

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