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Shady Behaviour For Eyes Encouraged

Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind and Cancer Society

16 November 2004

Shady Behaviour For Eyes Encouraged

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind and SunSmart are joining forces in encouraging “shady” behaviour during SunSmart Week (November 14 – 20) to ensure that all New Zealanders realise the importance of their eyesight.

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.

RNZFB Health Promotion Co-ordinator, Alena Reznichenko agrees with her.

“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.

UVA and UVB rays can cause many eye diseases starting from dry, irritated eyes and snow blindness (that is actually a severe burn of the cornea after a day’s skiing without eye protection) in the short term to the development of pterygium, cataracts and macular degeneration in the long term”.

Dr Reznichenko and Ms Billingsley also emphasize that though cancer of the eye is rare, basal cell carcinoma of the surrounding skin is a relatively common condition. Excessive exposure to the sun is also a risk factor for the development of melanoma of the eye, which is a potentially deadly cancer.

Further to this, Alena Reznichenko adds ,” Children’s eyes need to be protected as well and the sooner kids start wearing sunglasses while outside the better, especially between 11 am and 4pm during daylight saving months as the harmful effect of UV rays during this time is a well known fact. There is evidence that over-exposure to UV radiation early in life can cause a predisposition to eye problems later on.

Though children also need some exposure to UV radiation in order to develop protection against it, this should be better done before 11am and after 4pm. Sunglasses should be worn by children at all times around highly reflective surfaces such as water, sand and snow.”

While a wide-brimmed hat can reduce UV radiation to the eyes by up to half, good quality sunglasses provide considerably more protection” says Ms Billingsley. Ideally, the lenses should cut out 100 % of UV radiation, 85% of visible light or glare and 75% of infrared light or heat.

“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” she says

When buying sunglasses check the label to make sure the glasses conform with the Australia/New Zealand sunglasses standard (AS/NZS 1067

What you should look for:
- Ideally the lenses should cut out 100 percent of UV light, 85 percent of glare and 75 percent of infrared light or heat.
- 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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