Skip to main content

Are your sunglasses protecting your eyes from UV?

Most people check the SPF number of sunscreen to protect themselves from sunburn, but few of us know for sure if our sunglasses are shielding our eyes from harmful UV radiation. Scientists in Brazil have developed a self-service kiosk where 800 people have tested whether their shades are really protecting their eyes, and the service could become more widespread.

The way the kiosk works, and proof that it is as effective as lab tests are described in a paper in the open access journal BioMedical Engineering OnLine.

UV radiation from the sun can cause serious eye problems. Lifelong exposure to sunlight is associated with melanoma of the eye and other cancers, while the WHO estimates suggest that up to 20% of cataracts may be caused by overexposure to UV radiation. UV exposure has also been directly linked to other disorders like photokeratitis and photoconjunctivitis - sunburn of the cornea and conjunctiva, and pterygium, where the conjunctiva grows over the surface of the eye.

Some sunglasses give inadequate protection from UV radiation. Even those with UV protection certification can become less effective over time, and there is no worldwide standardisation for these certifications, so it’s useful to check how much protection they are really giving.

The first prototype kiosk was installed on the University of São Paulo campus in São Carlos for the public to use free of charge, with the intention of rolling them out in large public places such as malls and beaches. To find out how well their sunglasses work, users place their sunglasses in the kiosk, and the machine performs a transmittance test to find out how much UV radiation the lenses allow to pass through. Of 800 users of the prototype, 20% found their sunglasses were not giving them adequate protection.

Lead author Liliane Ventura from University of São Paulo said: “The easiest and most comprehensive way to protect a population against harm to human health is to provide the public a simple and accessible means of learning how to protect themselves. Publishing our research in an open access journal plays an important role in ensuring that this happens.”


Media Contact
Anna Perman
Media Officer
BioMed Central
T: +44 (0)20 3192 2429
M: +44 (0)7867 410 262

Notes to Editor

Self-service kiosk for testing sunglasses
Marcio M Mello, Victor AC Lincoln and Liliane Ventura
BioMedical Engineering OnLine 2014, 13:45
Article available at journal website:

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

BioMedical Engineering OnLine is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that is dedicated to publishing research in all areas of biomedical engineering.

BioMed Central ( is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector. @BioMedCentral