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Health Unit reminds Public of Safety during the April 8 Solar Eclipse

February 29, 2024

On April 8, 2024, parts of Leeds and Grenville Counties will be within the path of totality of the solar eclipse. This makes for great viewing but there is cause for a public health concern. Although the Moon will be covering most of the Sun, it’s still dangerous to look directly at the Sun from approximately 2:00pm to 4:30pm when the solar eclipse is happening. Viewing the sun with your naked eye during the eclipse can burn your retina, damaging the images your brain can view. This phenomenon, known as “eclipse blindness,” can cause temporary or permanent vision impairment, and in worst-case scenarios can lead to legal blindness, which entails significant loss of vision.

“There are no pain sensors in your retinas to indicate that your eyes are being damaged by looking at the sun”, says Dr. Linna Li, Medical Officer of Health for the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. “Symptoms can take 12 to 48 hours to appear and can include retinal burns, permanent or temporary visual loss, and blurred vision. Once symptoms begin, it’s usually too late to reverse any damage. This is why prevention and protection for your eyes is very important. ”

It is very dangerous to look directly at the sun at any time, but during an eclipse the temptation to have a quick glance can be very strong. Of course staying inside and avoiding the temptation is the best way to prevent harm to your eyes, but there are protection methods available.

To avoid damaging your retinas when viewing the solar eclipse:

  • Do not view the eclipse at all or use a proper method of blocking the sun’s dangerous rays while viewing
  • Use a filter that blocks all dangerous light – ISO-certified eclipse glasses from a reputable vendor that meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. The manufacturer’s name and address must be printed on the product.
  • Do not use any viewer if it has scratched or wrinkled lenses
  • Be careful of anyone trying to offer viewing devices that are not certified
  • Do not use:
    • ordinary sunglasses or multiple pairs of sunglasses
    • Neutral density or polarizing filters, such as those made for camera lenses
    • Smoked glass
    • Photographic or X-ray film (unexposed, exposed or developed)
    • Binoculars or telescope – even with certified glasses
    • There are some promoted household items and homemade filters but this is not the time to experiment with internet fads

Some communities are having mass gathering events to view the eclipse. There may be glasses available at these events or you can go online and order glasses ahead of time.

There will also be a virtual viewing through the Canadian Space Agency’s website for those who do not want to chance being outside. The Health Unit has links on their website to activities for kids such as making a pinhole camera (also called a pinhole projector) that can be used to safely observe an eclipse. Light is allowed through a small punched hole, which then projects the incoming light onto the opposite end of the box.

For more information about eye safety and proper viewing devices during the eclipse, visit Total Solar Eclipse 2024 – Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. If you require medical assistance because of a risk of exposure, call Ontario811 or visit a virtual care clinic.


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