Zeiss Seeks to Close ‘Gap’ in UV Protection With New Technology

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SAN DIEGO—Eyeglass wearers are not sufficiently protected from ultraviolet light by currently available spectacle lenses, which only block a portion of the harmful radiation, according to Carl Zeiss Vision. The lens maker is introducing a new technology, Zeiss UVProtect, that is designed to close what it said is a dangerous gap in UV protection. Zeiss contents that this gap, found between 380 and 400 nanometers of the electromagnetic spectrum, occurs because ophthalmic lens standards set by ISO (International Standards Organization) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) have not kept up with the latest research on the damaging effects of low-intensity ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure.

According to a Zeiss report, “The ISO 8980-3 lens standard defines the UVR spectrum as stopping at 380 nm, even though the UVR hazard evaluation standard it relies upon defines a UVR hazard up to 400 nm. ANSI has adopted the same wavelength range as the ISO lens standard, even though virtually all other scientific and health care organizations define UVR as extending up to 400 nm. In fact, 40 percent of UVR in daylight lies between 380 and 400 nm, the span of wavelengths ophthalmic standards ignore.”

This largely unknown gap in protection has accounted for four of five consumers being exposed to as much as 40 percent of the most harmful UV rays, according to The Vision Council. This exposure is directly linked to photoaging, cancer and cataracts, the leading cause of blindness.

To remedy the situation, Zeiss is launching Zeiss UVProtect Technology. The lens maker said UVProtect Technology “bridges a critical gap in UV protection in clear lenses, from the previous 380 nanometers in clear lenses to now complete UV 400 protection.” UVProtect Technology will be available beginning April 9.

“This is the first time that sunglass-level UV protection will be available in all clear lenses, giving eyeglasses wearers effortless protection for their eyes and eyelids,” said Jens Boy, president of Zeiss Vision North America. “Not only does UVProtect Technology establish a new standard of care in the eyecare industry, this technology will now come standard in all Zeiss plastic eyeglass lenses.”

Zeiss’ vice president of marketing, Andrew Hyncik, noted, “we did some investigating and discovered that as many as four out of five clear lenses do not offer full UV protection. As a Zeiss Foundation-owned company with a deep commitment to optical innovation, we saw this as an opportunity to raise industry standards by developing crystal clear lenses that offer sunglass-level UV protection.”

Although some UV absorbing lens dyes do in fact block UV up to 400 nm in clear lenses, Zeiss said UV dyes are often applied inconsistently, resulting in problems with lens performance and aesthetics. Zeiss said its UVProtect Technology can modify clear lens polymers for full UVR protection without altering the look of the lens. The company also said that UVProtect Technology will last for the life of the lens, since it is embedded into the lens material.

A new consumer survey released by Zeiss in conjunction with the launch of UVProtect found consumers are significantly uninformed regarding the impact of UV on the eyes. Less than 10 percent of consumers are aware that cataracts are a direct side effect of overexposure to UV, and only 13 percent are aware that skin cancer around the eyes is a potential side effect. However, 87 percent of glasses wearers would consider purchasing clear lens eyeglasses with UV protection if an option was available.

Among parents, only 3 percent of parents are aware that 50 percent of eye damage from UV radiation occurs before the age of 18, and less than 10 percent are aware that children’s eyes are exposed to three times the UV radiation compared to adults.

Zeiss will not patent UVProtect Technology so that other lens companies can utilize it in their products.