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Avoid blue-tinted sunglasses

Those cool, blue-tinted shades worn on bright summer

days might be fashionable, but local eye experts are warning that it may not be

the best choice of lens for the long-term health of your eyes.

"Blue tint emits ultraviolet light and that is what sunglasses are supposed

to block," said Dr. Eleanor E. Faye of Lighthouse International in Manhattan,

a 100-year-old nonprofit organization that promotes the rehabilitation of

vision impairment and blindness.

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"Sunglasses really prevent the eye from constantly being barraged with

ultraviolet light ... which ... is harmful to the retina and may cause damage

like macular degeneration."

Janet R. Sparrow, PhD, professor of ophthalmic science at Columbia

University Medical Center, said the white light that we see is actually a range

of colors coming together. "When you put them all together you get white

light," she said. "When we speak of blue light, we mean those wave lights, if

you could isolate, you would see them as blue."

Sparrow said that the problem is, blue light excites pigments in the

retinal cells to form unstable oxygen molecules that harm the macular cells

responsible for fine eyesight used for reading and other close work.

"Naturally, these cells have a mechanism that gets rid of unwanted

compounds, but in this case these particular compounds are unusual, and the

cell doesn't have a mechanism for how to deal with it," Sparrow said.

"This doesn't happen with red light or yellow light," said Sparrow, who is

researching blue light as a cause of age-related macular degeneration,

including Stargardt's disease, in which these blue-light-sensitive compounds

form at an accelerated rate, causing damage to retinal cells and leading to

vision loss.

Earlier this month, President George W. Bush noted jokingly that Los

Angeles Times reporter Peter Wallsten had left on his shades during an

interview in the Rose Garden. Wallsten suffers from macular degeneration and

needs the sunglasses for protection from glare. The president later apologized,

after learning of Wallsten's condition.

Still, for the general public, experts say wearing shades can be cool for

your image and your eyes.

So, what type should you wear? Sparrow says that yellow or amber is best.

Dark-tinted lenses are also a good choice because they reduce exposure to

harmful light.

Faye also recommends that people avoid looking directly at the ocean.

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