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Spectrophotometer Shows Not All Shades Are Rose-Colored

Photonics Spectra
Jun 1999
Daniel C. McCarthy, News Editor

Spectators at the 1999 Australian Open in Melbourne may have paid more for better seats, but many of those at the event learned that more cash doesn't necessarily buy more eye protection. The Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria was on hand with a spectrophotometer from Varian Inc. to test the efficacy of onlookers' sunglasses in blocking out harmful ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation (280 to 320 nm).

The council warns in its SunSmart campaign materials that, without adequate protection from sun glare, long-term eye damage can lead to cataracts and, in severe cases, blindness. However, not one to spread doom and gloom, the council also reported that, after testing 525 pairs of glasses in the first week of the event, only 2 percent failed the Australian Standard 1067.1-1990 for sunglasses and fashion spectacles.

Tint, and not price, is the measure of effective sunglasses as indicated by the Cary 50 Solascreen spectrophotometer from Varian. The Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, Australia, is using the device to increase awareness of Australians about the anti-UV protection their sunglasses afford. Courtesy of Varian Inc.

Further, it found that price does not appear to be a factor in determining how well sunglasses perform. Some inexpensive lenses were among the most effective sunblockers, keeping out 100 percent of both UVB and UVA rays.

The Cary 50 Solascreen spectrophotometer from Varian is on loan to the Anti-Cancer Council, which has used it at a number of promotional events, including a surfing tournament and festival at Bells Beach in Victoria. The device evaluates the protectiveness of clothing, as well as sunglasses, by ranking their UV-filtering performance in four categories. It uses light from a xenon lamp to scan wavelengths ranging between 190 and 1100 nm.

The council also invites people at these events to examine their skin under UV light for signs of hidden sun damage. But, according to Julie Baglot, public relations officer for the SunSmart campaign, Varian's spectrophotometer delivers a positive message about the importance of sun-protective clothing and items rather than focusing negative attention on damage already done.

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