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Sunglasses & fashion spectacles safety

Exposure to high levels of environmental ultraviolet radiation is common in Australia. Chronic exposure to ultraviolet radiation has been implicated in serious eye disorders including cataract, pterygium and age-related macular degeneration. Sun glare can cause temporary blindness and is a feature of some car accidents including those involving pedestrians.

Certain sunglasses can help to reduce sun glare and exposure to solar radiation to the eyes. Through the mandatory standard for sunglasses and fashion spectacles (glasses), the law requires sunglasses to have special labels that show what level of protection they provide.

What labels to look for on sunglasses for normal everyday use

If you are looking for sunglasses, rather than fashion spectacles, don't rely on verbal advice from the seller about how much a certain pair of sunglasses can protect your eyes from sun glare and solar radiation. Always check the labels.

Labels on sunglasses must show a category of protection they can provide the wearer. Below is a general guide to the labels and the level of protection certain categories provide. Sunglasses in these categories are more likely to meet sunglasses performance requirements.

  • Sunglasses in categories 2, 3 and 4 offer increasing levels of protection respectively.
  • Sunglasses with category 2 or 3 lenses must be marked or labelled with:
    1. lens category number 2 or 3
    2. the words ‘sunglasses’, ‘good UV protection’, and either ‘medium sunglare reduction’ (for category 2) or ‘high sunglare reduction’ (for category 3), and
    3. manufacturer or supplier identification.
  • Category 4 sunglasses offer the highest protection and must be marked or labelled with:
    • lens category number 4
    • the words ‘Sunglasses – special purpose', ‘Very high sunglare reduction’, Good UV protection’
    • the words ‘MUST NOT BE USED WHEN DRIVING’
    • a 'do not drive' symbol, and 
    • manufacturer or supplier identification.
  • Any reference to the Australian Standard in any category is voluntary - the reference is not required by law.
  • If there is no label, you can reasonably assume that they are fashion spectacles and may not offer eye protection.

When not to use sunglasses

Sunglasses reduce the ability to see at low light levels. Sunglasses with lens categories 1-4 should not be used when driving at night, or used indoors whenever good vision is needed.

Toy and novelty sunglasses

Glasses with tinted lenses for use as toys should be clearly and legibly labelled as toys.

If they are labelled as toys, they are exempt from the mandatory standard for sunglasses and fashion spectacles.  Otherwise, they must comply with performance and labelling requirements of the mandatory standard. It's reasonable to expect that toy sunglasses will not provide eye protection.

More information on sunglasses and fashion spectacles complying with the mandatory standard (law)

  • The mandatory standard for sunglasses and fashion spectacles (glasses) regulates ‘sunglasses’ and ‘fashion spectacles’ differently.
  • In general, sunglasses use polarizing or photochromatic lenses intended to protect to varying degrees against sunglare and solar radiation. Sunglasses that comply with the mandatory standard will have met minimum resistance to ultraviolet radiation and other performance requirements.
  • Fashion spectacles (glasses) have tinted lenses which absorb some ultraviolet radiation but are not required by law to substantially reduce sunglare or exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
  • Sunglasses and fashion spectacles that comply with the mandatory standard will have met minimum robustness, lens retention and other performance requirements.
  • Specialist eye protection and toy sunglasses clearly labelled as toys are are not covered by the mandatory standard.

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