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Sunglasses

Manufacturers and distributors of sunglasses for the European market must conform to current testing and certification procedures.

Glare from the sun can damage eyesight and can also seriously affect certain everyday activities – for example, driving a car. Sunglasses should provide adequate protection to the eyes from harmful ultra violet (UV) light – the part of the spectrum of radiation from the sun that can cause damage to the cells of the human body.

In Europe, sunglasses are considered to be personal protective equipment (PPE) and, therefore, subject to the requirements of the European regulation for personal protective equipment. This regulation places items of PPE into one of three categories, depending on the type of hazard that they are intended to protect against.

Sunglasses are listed as ‘Category I’ (the lowest category PPE). They can be self-certified and CE marked by the manufacturer after collation of the appropriate technical documentation and confirmation that the performance of the product (both physical and optical) is satisfactory. Enforcement and customs authorities in European Member States may require this information.

A standard has been developed for sunglasses and sun glare filters. EN ISO 12312-1:2013+A1:2015 specifies performance properties for products intended for general social and domestic purposes, including driving. Photochromic types (that reversibly alter luminous transmittance under the influence of sunlight) are also included. However, it does not apply to eyewear for protection against radiation from artificial light sources, such as those used in solaria (tanning beds). Nor does it apply to ski goggles or sunglasses that have been medically prescribed for reducing exposure to solar radiation. ISO 12312 details methods to evaluate the general safety, optical properties and structural characteristics of afocal (plano) sunglasses and clip-ons, and sun glare filters. These include requirements for filters and complete sunglasses, and information to be supplied by the manufacturer. Reference is made to other eyewear standards (such as EN 166:2001 and EN 167:2001). These cover aspects of physical testing such as robustness and optical tests intended to check light transmission and distortion properties. Frames made of nickel are required to satisfy EN 16128:2011 – the test method for release of nickel from products in direct and prolonged skin contact.

There are five filter categories for sunglasses (see table 1). Category 0 applies to photochromic lenses in the faded state (clear condition), with higher categories covering filters with greater light attenuation (reduction). Photochromic lenses are categorised as both 0 and a higher category, depending on their luminous (light) transmittance properties in the darkened state. Sunglasses suitable for driving need to conform to category 0, 1, 2, or 3 to allow sufficient visible light to pass and not adversely affect the recognition of traffic signals. In addition to evaluating luminous transmittance, tests are also carried out to evaluate the capability of the lens to filter out infrared and UV light.

Table 1: The five filter categories for sunglasses
Filter category Description Range of luminous transmittance
Above (per cent) To (per cent)
0 Clear or very light tint 80 100
1 Light tint 43 80
2 Medium tint 18 43
3 Dark tint 8 18
4 Very dark tint 3 8

Further information on SATRA's PPE certification and testing services is available at www.satra.com/ppe

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Please email ppe@satra.com for further information on the testing of sunglasses.