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Don't Let Eye Damage Block Eclipse-Viewing Fun

Washingtonians should check for the ISO certified seal of approval when looking for solar eclipse-viewing glasses. (Ken Lund/Flickr)
Washingtonians should check for the ISO certified seal of approval when looking for solar eclipse-viewing glasses. (Ken Lund/Flickr)
August 16, 2017

SEATTLE - As eclipse fever grips the nation, Washingtonians won't see Monday's complete solar eclipse but still will have a very good view of this celestial event. Eye-health experts want to make sure everyone knows how to protect their eyes.

Sunglasses won't be enough, since they only block the sun's light by a factor of about 10. Solar eclipse viewing glasses are much darker, reducing the brightness of the sun by a factor of 10,000.

Dr. Deepta Rawat, an ophthalmologist with Kaiser Permanente in Federal Way, said looking directly at the sun even as the moon slips in front of it during the eclipse can do serious damage to the eye.

"It can cause a burn, basically, a photochemical burn to the retina," she said, "and what these glasses will do is, it'll filter out a lot of those harmful rays."

Rawat said people should keep their special glasses on throughout the eclipse while they are viewing it. NASA recommends buying glasses with a certified ISO seal of approval.

Most of Washington will experience a 90 percent blockage of the sun. The eclipse will begin around 9 a.m. and end before noon.

Damage from looking at the sun can cause an afterimage that feels like the flash from a camera but lasts much longer, possibly leading to fuzzy vision or even a small blind spot. However, Rawat doesn't want people to be too freaked out.

"Don't be overly concerned. Enjoy the eclipse," she said. "I know it's not something that happens very frequently, and it may be just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but just make sure that you're properly protected."

The last total solar eclipse visible across the United States was in 1918. On NASA's website, you can learn how to build your own viewfinder and find other safety tips for the eclipse.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA