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Eclipse-viewing glasses mostly sold out; beware of fakes

Colton Hammer tries out his new eclipse glasses

Colton Hammer tries out his new eclipse glasses he bought from the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Scott G Winterton

Long Islanders wanting to score a pair of safe eclipse-watching glasses may be out of luck.

Employees at several retailers on the Island said they are sold out of the special specs to view the sun Monday as it becomes obscured by the passing moon.

Retailers listed by the American Astronomical Society that sell glasses compliant with standards set by the International Organization for Standardization include 7-Eleven, Best Buy, Lowe’s and Walmart.

Some stores said they’ve been sold out for as long as two weeks and are not expecting additional shipments.

As supplies have dwindled, online prices for eclipse glasses have skyrocketed. The glasses, most made of cardboard or plastic and originally priced as low as $1.98, are now listed by third-party sellers on Amazon.com for $99 or more for a set of “3 ISO 12312-2 compliant eclipse glasses for direct sun viewing.”

Buyers beware: Not all glasses marketed as being “safe” or “ISO compliant” for the eclipse are actually safe. Last week, Amazon issued a recall on some glasses that did not meet safety standards.

Tony Iovino, supervisor of community services at the Oceanside Library, said the recall forced him to cancel an eclipse viewing event.

“Once Amazon informed us about the recall, we lost a huge part of our inventory [of glasses] and felt it was best to cancel,” he said.

Rick Feinberg, press officer for the American Astronomical Society, said if you can’t find safe protective eyewear, it’s better to not watch the eclipse.

“The problem with the fakes is that we don’t know if they’ve been tested properly,” he said.

“They may not block enough ultraviolet and infrared radiation coming from the sun,” he said. The radiation “can cook your retina without your even knowing it because there are no pain receptors there.”

Feinberg said some of the eclipse glasses being sold online that are labeled as being ISO compliant for eclipse viewing (which should be marked with safety standard number ISO 12312-2) are actually marked with safety standard number ISO 12312-1, which is designated for “ordinary” sunglasses.

Ordinary sunglasses “are not made to be used for looking directly at the sun,” he said. “Even looking at the sun for longer than a fraction of a second without proper protection is inadvisable.”

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