This so-called eye expert is DEAD WRONG

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Monday, August 14, 2017

Holley Bakich safely views the Sun on a day when no eclipse happened through approved solar glasses. // Michael E. Bakich
On August 11, Ohio optometrist Michael Schecter went viral on Facebook, and he couldn’t have been more wrong. Despite support of proper viewing by the American Academy of Opthalmology, the American Optometric Association, and American Academy of Optometry, this guy just pushed the nuke button regarding his totally unsupported assertion of the safety of viewing the eclipse with approved solar glasses. Here’s what he wrote:

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“As an Optometrist, I want to express concern that I have about the solar eclipse on Monday, Aug 21. There are serious risks associated with viewing a solar eclipse directly, even with the use of solar filter glasses. Everyone should keep in mind if they or their children are considering this.

We have to keep in mind that some people will encounter the inability to control every aspect of this exercise. For instance, true solar eclipse glasses are made for adults, do not fit children well and should not be used without direct parental supervision. If the solar glasses do not filter out 100% of the harmful UV rays, if they are not used absolutely perfectly, or should there be a manufacturing defect in any of them, this will result in permanent and irreversible vision loss for any eye exposed. Just like sunburn to the skin, the effects are not felt or noticed immediately. I have a great fear that I will have patients in my office on Tuesday, Aug 22 who woke up with hazy, blurry vision that I cannot fix. It is a huge risk to watch the eclipse even with the use of solar glasses. There is no absolutely safe way to do so other than on TV.

The biggest danger with children is ensuring proper use without direct parental supervision. As the eclipse passes over many places, including Columbus, the moon will not block 100% of the sun. Because so much of its light is blocked by the moon, if one looks at it without full protection, it does not cause pain as looking at the sun does on a regular day. Normally if you try to look at the sun, it physically hurts and you can't see anything. During an eclipse, however, it is easier to stare for a bit....and even less than 30 seconds of exposure to a partially eclipsed sun, you can burn a blind spot right to your most precious central vision. With solar glasses you can't see ANYTHING except the crescent of light of the sun. Kids could have a tendency to want to peak around the filter to see what is actually going on up there. One failure, just one, where education and supervision fail, will have such a devastating consequence.

Please, please be safe. Watch it on television.”

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Does this guy own stock in CNN? Is that why he’s attempting to deprive people the spectacular, life-changing view of being outdoors and viewing a total solar eclipse in the real sky? There are so many errors in this post that, one week before the event, I don’t have time to list them all. But here are just a few biggies:

First, ultraviolet light that reaches Earth’s surface is so attenuated that it doesn’t affect the eye unless you have a condition called aphakia. It’s the intense visible light alone that does the damage. But approved solar viewing glasses cut the intensity of sunlight to one-two-hundred-thousandth of normal.

Second, nobody in any position of authority or expertise is suggesting that people ever view the Sun without an approved solar filter.

Finally (to make a long story short), I have traveled to and viewed 12 total solar eclipses, with all their partial phases, and have suffered no eye damage at all. Also, studies have been done (the one I’m thinking of followed the 2012 total solar eclipse in Australia) that showed no permanent eye damage at all, despite hundreds of thousands of people (of all ages) who viewed the partial and/or total phases of that event.

I’m just imagining what this guy’s next post going to be about? The danger of travel? I can see it now: “Don’t drive, just watch others do it on TV.”

A friend of mine, who by the way has seen more than 30 total solar eclipses, added this: “My contention is that there will be people in Schecter’s office in the following weeks who had no damage from the eclipse but who just thought about their eyes, and he will pick up pre-existing conditions. I prophesy therefore that there will be a net gain in eye health from all those people who will visit him.” Well, I guess that could be good, in a limited way.

My friend then added: “And then we add to that the net loss of respect for official warnings from people who learned that they have missed out on something good.” Ouch!

For those of you wondering if your solar glasses are safe (because one fact not touched on in the post was the selling of unsafe eclipse glasses), head to this American Astronomical Society web page that lists approved vendors.

Now go out on the 21st, and watch the spectacle in the sky.

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