Not all UV lenses are created equal

Not all UV lenses are created equal  header image

We’re all aware of the long-term damage that UV light can have on our skin, but we don’t always think about the kind of damage it can have on our eyes.

If the eyewear says it has UV protection, that’s enough... right? In this case, what you can’t see can hurt you.

What is UV light?

First, let’s understand what UV light is. Scientifically speaking, UV light is electromagnetic radiation from the sun traveling at wavelengths between 190-400 nanometers. (1 nanometer = 1 billionth of a meter.)

There are electromagnetic waves your eyes can detect - called visible light - and our brain interprets these various wavelengths of light as different colors.

If you’ve ever held a prism up against the sun, you’ll see that the prism creates a rainbow by redirecting each wavelength at a slightly different angle. Red has the longest wavelength and violet the shortest.

Not All UV Lenses Are Created Equal

When does UV light become harmful?

Ever wonder why you may get sunburn at the beach even on a cloudy day? The chart below explains how UV light isn’t “visible light” but instead can become harmful. (This is also why you shouldn’t ever skimp on the sunscreen!)

Not All UV Lenses Are Created Equal

UV light is broken out into three kinds:

  1. UVC rays (190-290nm) - the shortest and not long enough to reach our skin
  2. UVB rays (290-320nm) - comes in contact with the outer layer of the skin
  3. UVA rays (320-400nm) - penetrates deeper into the skin, all the way into the inner layers

According to The Vision Council, the majority of harmful UV radiation comes through at a higher frequency, and the range of 380-400nm lets through as much as 40% of the most harmful UV rays.

Right next to UV light and partway through visible light is another potentially harmful light from 400-450nm - blue light. Learn more about blue light and the need for protection in the workplace.

How do you protect eyes against UV light?

When it comes to blocking harmful rays with our safety eyewear, we need to worry about UVB and UVA radiation but not UVC, as it's almost completely absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere and the ozone layer.

The good news is that polycarbonate, which is what most safety eyewear lenses are made of, will help to naturally filter out some of this UV light.

However, typical polycarbonate only filters up to 380nm, leaving a 20nm range unprotected. Not protecting yourself from the additional 20nm of UV light can lead to Photokeratitis (also known as “sunburn of the eye”) in the short term, and cataracts or macular degeneration in the long term.

Remember, UV light isn’t part of the visible light spectrum, so be sure to not confuse blocking UV rays with needing a shaded lens on a bright sunny day. Filtering UV rays are different than filtering from the visible light spectrum.

Now that you understand the importance of UV protection with your safety eyewear, make sure that you are selecting an option that offers 100% UV protection. Only having 95% or even 99% UV protection can still leave you exposed to some of the most harmful rays.

HexArmor® safety eyewear can help

All HexArmor® lenses provide 100% UV protection. Being the manufacturer of not only the eyewear but also the polycarbonate lens gives us full control over the quality of every single safety eyewear frame.

That means we're able to put an additive into the lens during the manufacturing process to block the additional (and most dangerous) 20nm - giving you the full 100% UV protection up to 400nm that you deserve.

Learn more about how to protect workers from the sun beyond safety eyewear. 

Our eyes are critical to helping us perform our jobs and they are equally as important to our personal lives (12 fascinating eye facts). Do your part to protect them.

Plus, all of HexArmor's safety eyewear is Z87+ approved, so you know you're getting the best eye protection on the market - see our safety eyewear technology.

Let us know if you need help - our Solution Specialists are ready to work with you. Call 1-877-MY ARMOR or send us a message.

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