Amazon Doesn’t Care About Your Eyes, So…

A total solar eclipse in Norway in 2015. Nesvold, Jon Olav / Reuters.

Eclipse fever has hit, hard, and a whole lot of areas are bracing themselves, hoping for the best. It’s all well and good to want to see an eclipse, it’s exciting, lots to ooh and aaah over, but it’s not worth permanently damaging your eyes, and there’s been an unprecedented demand for eclipse glasses, and a great many people are heading straight to Amazon for them, and Amazon has no oversight when it comes to properly rated specs. There’s a wealth of counterfeit specs on the market.

[…] APO itself has done the same. Jason Lewin, the company’s director of marketing, says APO started to notice the counterfeits showing up on Amazon about a month ago. Since then, they’ve ordered some of the products, tested them, and sent Amazon photos and documentation of the counterfeits. Both Lewin and APO president John Jerit have been frustrated by the lack of response. They’re late to the game with this,” says Jerit. “Some of the legitimate resellers we’ve got, they’ve been complaining and complaining about this.

“[Counterfeiting] isn’t new to Amazon but this isn’t fidget spinners,” adds Lewin. “These are supposed to be things to keep you safe.”

All this has made me suspicious about my own glasses. The ones I bought have all the right words printed on them: “meets the Transmission Requirements of ISO 12312-2” they say, before going on to list a slew of other standards allegedly met. Then at the end: “Mfg. by: American Paper Optics.”

But the Amazon listing didn’t actually say American Paper Optics manufactured the lenses; it just showed up with the Tennessee-based company’s stamp on it. I ask Lunt how I could tell if what I had was the real deal or a knock-off, and he tells me to look at the earpieces. There’s a design element that’s been generic among all of cardboard glasses for years (remember those red-and-blue lensed 3D glasses?): the part of the cardboard frame that hooks over the ears has a rounded end. APO recently changed their design to have a more squared-off earpiece.

No surprise, my 10-pack all have rounded ears, the scarlet letter of phoniness.

Top: the real American Paper Optics glasses; Bottom: a photo of counterfeit glasses sold as “American Paper Optics” on Amazon.

As you can see, a bit of care is needed to make sure you aren’t endangering your eyes if you’re going to be an eclipse hunter this month. Quartz has an in-depth article about this, and NASA has guidelines available, too.

Be sure you’re safe, check and doublecheck those specs!


  1. says

    It might do, I don’t know, but I’m not one to take any chances with my eyes. I have lousy enough eyesight, and I would be devastated to lose or limit my sight. Also, age. I’d no doubt be more cavalier about it if I were young, but I wouldn’t take any chances now.

  2. Tethys says

    According to NASA, a welders hood rated 14 or higher is sufficient for an eclipse. I think the glasses are far more affordable, assuming they really do screen out the infrared and ultraviolet light. I too have old eyes and have been severly myopic for most of my life, so I won’t be taking any chances on damaging my retinas.

    Viewing with Protection — Experts suggests that one widely available filter for safe solar viewing is number 14 welder’s glass. It is imperative that the welding hood houses a #14 or darker filter. Do not view through any welding glass if you do not know or cannot discern its shade number. Be advised that arc welders typically use glass with a shade much less than the necessary #14. A welding glass that permits you to see the landscape is not safe. Inexpensive eclipse glasses have special safety filters that appear similar to sunglasses, but these do permit safe viewing.

  3. blf says

    Back-projection, people, back-projection! Whilst I myself always use a telescope to back-project onto a small screen, a simple and safe pinhole back-projector works quite well. Used properly, you are never looking directly at the sun.

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