Sunglasses or sun glasses are a form of protective eyewear designed primarily to prevent bright sunlight and high-energy visible light from damaging or discomforting the eyes. They can sometimes also function as a visual aid, as variously termed spectacles or glasses exist, featuring lenses that are colored, polarized or darkened. In the early 20th century they were also known as sun cheaters (cheaters being an American slang term for glasses).
Healthcare professionals recommend eye protection whenever the sun comes out to protect the eyes from ultraviolet radiation (UV) and blue light, which can cause several serious eye problems. Sunglasses have long been associated with celebrities and film actors primarily from a desire to mask their identity. Since the 1940s sunglasses have been popular as a fashion accessory, especially on the beach.
Inuit snow goggles function by reducing exposure to sunlight, not by reducing its intensity
In prehistoric and historic time, Inuit peoples wore flattened walrus ivory “glasses,” looking through narrow slits to block harmful reflected rays of the sun .
It is said that the Roman emperor Nero liked to watch gladiator fights with emeralds. These, however, appear to have worked rather like mirrors. Sunglasses made from flat panes of smoky quartz, which offered no corrective powers but did protect the eyes from glare were used in China in the 12th century or possibly earlier. Ancient documents describe the use of such crystal sunglasses by judges in ancient Chinese courts to conceal their facial expressions while questioning witnesses.
James Ayscough began experimenting with tinted lenses in spectacles in the mid-18th century, around 1752. These were not “sunglasses” as that term is now used; Ayscough believed blue- or green-tinted glass could correct for specific vision impairments. Protection from the Sun’s rays was not a concern for him.
Yellow/amber and brown-tinted spectacles were also a commonly prescribed item for people with syphilis in the 19th and early 20th centuries because sensitivity to light was one of the symptoms of the disease.
In the early 1900s, the use of sunglasses started to become more widespread, especially among stars of movies. It is commonly believed that this was to avoid recognition by fans, but an alternative reason sometimes given is that they often had red eyes from the powerful arc lamps that were needed due to the extremely slow speed film stocks used. The stereotype persisted long after improvements in film quality and the introduction of ultraviolet filters had eliminated this problem. Inexpensive mass-produced sunglasses were introduced to America by Sam Foster in 1929. Foster found a ready market on the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he began selling sunglasses under the name Foster Grant from a Woolworth on the Boardwalk.
Polarized sunglasses first became available in 1936, when Edwin H. Land began experimenting with making lenses with his patented Polaroid filter.
Standards for sunglasses
There are three major sunglass standards, which are popularly known mostly as a reference for sunglass protection from UV radiation; the standards do, however, also include further requirements. A worldwide ISO standard does not yet exist, but by 2004, attempts to introduce such standard have led to a respective ISO standards committee, subcommittee, technical committee, and several working groups. Sunglasses sold in the United States are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and are required to conform to safety standards.
The Australian Standard is AS/NZS 1067:2003 Sunglasses and fashion spectacles. The five ratings for transmittance (filter) under this standard are based on the amount of absorbed light, 0 to 4, with “0” providing some protection from UV radiation and sunglare, and “4” indicating a high level of protection, but not to be worn when driving. Australia introduced the world’s first national standards for sunglasses in 1971. They were subsequently updated and expanded, leading in 1990 to AS 1067.1-1990 Sunglasses and fashion spectacles (incl. Part 1 Safety Requirements and Part 2 Performance Requirements), which was superseded in part in 2003 by AS/NZS 1067:2003 Sunglasses and fashion spectacles. The 2003 update made the Australian standard relatively similar to the European standard. This step opened the European market to Australian-made sunglasses, but the standard also maintained requirements considered specific to Australia’s climate.
The European standard EN 1836:2005 has four transmittance ratings: “0” for insufficient UV protection, “2” for sufficient UHV protection, “6” for good UHV protection and “7” for “full” UHVV protection, meaning that no more than 5% of the 380 nm rays are transmitted. Products which fulfill the standard receive a CE mark. There is no rating for transmittance protection for radiation of up to 400 nm (“UV400”), as required in other countries (incl. the United States) and recommended by experts. The current standard EN 1836:2005 was preceded by the older standards EN 166:1995 (Personal eye protection –Specifications), EN167: 1995 (Personal eye protection – Optical test methods), and EN168: 1995 (Personal eye protection – Non-optical test methods), which in 2002 were republished as a revised standard under the name of EN 1836:1997 (which included two amendments). In addition to filtering, the standard also lists requirements for minimum robustness, labeling, materials (non-toxic for skin contact and not combustible) and lack of protrusions (to avoid harm when wearing them).
The U.S. standard is ANSI Z80.3-2001, which includes three transmittance categories. According to the ANSI Z80.3-2001 standard, the lens should have a UVB (280 to 315 nm) transmittance of no more than one per cent and a UVA (315 to 380 nm) transmittance of no more than 0.3 times the visual light transmittance. The ANSI Z87.1-2003 standard includes requirements for basic impact and high impact protection. In the basic impact test, a 1 in (2.54 cm) steel ball is dropped on the lens from a height of 50 in (127 cm). In the high velocity test, a 1/4 in (6.35 mm) steel ball is shot at the lens at 150 ft/s (45.72 m/s). To pass both tests, no part of the lens may touch the eye.