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Shady Behaviour Encouraged

November 12, 2003
Media release

Shady Behaviour Encouraged

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind and the Cancer Society are joining forces in encouraging shady behaviour.

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause permanent damage to the eye and the skin around the eye which can be avoided with the use of appropriate eye protection.

“The eyes and the sensitive skin around them can be damaged if exposed to too much sunlight,” says Cancer Society SunSmart spokesperson Wendy Billingsley.

Zee Monsalve of the Blindness Awareness and Prevention division of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind agrees.

“The ‘wrap’ component was added to the ‘Slip, slop, slap’ campaign a few years ago for a very good reason,” she says.

“New Zealand and Australia have the highest UVA and UVB levels in the world, and for that reason it’s always been really important that we protect our skin from the sun.

“The possibility that UVA and UVB rays can also cause significant damage to the eyes, including potentially blinding conditions such as cataracts and eye cancers, is currently being investigated, so it makes sense to protect our eyes with UV-protective sunglasses,” adds Ms Monsalve.

Wendy Billingsley of the Cancer Society points out that cancer of the eye is rare, but basal cell carcinoma of the surrounding skin is relatively common.

Ms Billingsley says, “In addition to carcinomas, UV radiation is associated with cataracts and a condition known as pterygium. It also causes a short-term condition known as snow-blindness, which can follow a day’s skiing without wearing eye protection.

“A wide-brimmed hat can reduce UV radiation to the eyes by up to half, but good quality sunglasses provide considerably more protection. Ideally, the lenses should cut out 100 percent of UV radiation, but it is not just the lenses which provide protection.”

She says up to 35 percent of UV radiation can come around the edges of ordinary spectacle frames.

“The sunglasses should be close-fitting and with large lenses. The best protection is provided by wrap-around styles. It is important to avoid small lens ‘John Lennon’ type glasses”.

Further to this, says Ms Monsalve, “The fashion spectacles that are in vogue at the moment amongst teenage girls with the lighter coloured lenses are generally unlikely to do anything for the eye in terms of UV protection. They are purely a cosmetic accessory and should be treated as such. If you want UV protection from a pair of sunglasses, make sure they meet the Australian/New Zealand standard – AS/NZS 1067.”

While Ms Billingsley says there is no agreement among ophthalmologists over whether children should wear sunglasses, she says there is evidence that over-exposure to UV radiation early in life can cause a predisposition to eye problems later on.

“However, it appears that children also need some exposure to UV radiation in order to develop protection against it.”

She recommends sunglasses should be worn by children around highly reflective surfaces such as water, sand and snow.

“Keeping a pair of sunglasses in the car for each child means at least they’ll be handy to avoid the glare on long journeys and will also get the children used to wearing sunglasses,” Ms Billingsley says.

Sunglasses should conform with the joint Australia/New Zealand sunglasses standard (AS/NZS 1067) and absorb at least 99 percent of UV rays.

What you should look for:

- Ideally the lenses should cut out 100 percent of UV light
- Up to 35 percent of UV light can come around the edges of ordinary spectacle frames – the glasses should be close-fitting and large-lensed.
- It is important to avoid small-lensed “John Lennon” type glasses.

The Cancer Society has its own range of glasses which have been designed to meet all the recommended standards while at the same time measuring up to fashion requirements.

“There’s no reason at all why people can’t protect their eyes and look good at the same time,” Ms Billingsley says.


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