Fake eclipse glasses ‘flooding’ market, astronomy group says

People nationwide are rushing to buy eclipse glasses with just two weeks left before the historic Aug. 21 event -- but buyer beware.

The American Astronomical Society is warning on its website that the market is being “flooded with counterfeit eclipse glasses.”

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The AAS previously advised people to look for evidence that the glasses comply with international safety standards for filters of direct viewing of the sun by ensuring the following was printed on the glasses: ISO 12312-2.

Related: Best places to watch the Great American eclipse

“But now the marketplace is being flooded by counterfeit eclipse glasses that are labeled as if they’re ISO-compliant when in fact they are not,” AAS said. “Even more unfortunately, unscrupulous vendors can grab the ISO logo off the internet and put it on their products and packaging even if their eclipse glasses or viewers haven’t been properly tested.”

You cannot watch the eclipse -- the first in 99 years to cross the entire U.S. -- without special glasses or you can do irreversible damage to your eyes, including going blind. Although the sun is no brighter during an eclipse than on a regular day, it is more comfortable to look at, meaning you can stare at it longer and damage your eyes.

Related: Your eyes will fry under normal sunglasses during eclipse

Regular sun glasses are not enough to keep out the harmful rays of the sun.

“What you absolutely should not do is search for eclipse glasses on the internet and buy whatever pops up in the ads or search results,” AAS said.

AAS is now suggesting people ensure their glasses are ISO certified and come from reputable vendors that it has verified and listed on its website. 

The manufacturers listed are ones the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force has had previous experience with “as well as companies whose products have been certified safe by authorities we recognize and whose certification we have confirmed to be genuine.”

Related: 7 things to know about the rare total solar eclipse crossing the nation this August

NASA also recommends the glasses not be used if they are older than three years or are scratched.

“The problem with fakes is that you can’t know if they’re letting unsafe levels of solar ultraviolet and/or infrared radiation into your eyes,” said Richard Tresch Fienberg, a press officer with AAS. “You’d never know until it’s too late, because our retinas don’t have pain receptors.”

I bought several pairs of glasses from different vendors on Amazon before checking the approved list. I didn’t realize one set was not on the list. The company’s Amazon site is no longer working and neither is its Facebook page. The brand is Cosmos Eclipse Glasses by POGO Industrial CO. I’m trying to reach the company.

Related: Eclipse will cross U.S. for first time since 1918

Fienberg said he has not heard of the brand.

“I bought some counterfeits in a New Hampshire country store yesterday,” Fienberg said. “They’re printed almost the same as real ones from American Paper Optics, but there are numerous telltale signs that they’re fake.”

You cannot check yourself to see if your eclipse glasses are safe. But there are signs they are not safe.

  • You should not be able to see anything through the lenses except the sun itself, or something comparably bright, such as sun reflected in a mirror.
  • If you glance at the sun through your glasses and it is uncomfortably bright, the glasses are no good.

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