Even as manufacturers deploy manufacturing controls, track and trace applications and supply chain controls to meet regulations, we are still seeing counterfeit products pop up, even for very low cost items. This time it’s for eclipse glasses.
Counterfeit products can be detrimental to users, can be easy to manufacture and hard to control. Some manufacturers may use legitimate raw materials for the glasses but others may not. But how can you purchase them without knowing which ones will not hurt your eyes and which ones won’t. It’s a lot of risk.
With the approaching solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, I decided it would be interesting to see the total eclipse which is often referred to as “totality.” I read all about the eclipse on NASA’s website and some of the events taking place across the country. The last time a total solar eclipse was visible from the U.S. was about 40 years ago, on February 26, 1979. The last time the US experienced a total eclipse visible across the US was May 29, 1919 – over 98 years ago. After this solar eclipse, the next total solar eclipse will be April 8, 2024 in the US, and also in 2044 and 2045. Everyone in the US should be able to view at least a partial eclipse - provided you wear legitimate eclipse glasses.
If you want to view the eclipse, NASA recommends that you wear specially designed “solar eclipse glasses” so that you do not damage your eyes. The protective glasses are important and vary in price for around $2.50 - $3.00 for inexpensive cardboard glasses to more expensive plastic or Bill Nye the Science guy designer glasses for around $19.99. Regular sunglasses won’t cut it. The American Astronomical Society also stated that people should not try to make home remedies.
Over the weekend, I was going to order the glasses from Amazon or eBay but read several articles on counterfeit eclipse glasses that caught my eye. One that stated, “Solar-eclipse fever means counterfeit glasses are flooding Amazon’s market.” I do not like the idea of taking a risk with my eyes, because you can’t replace them. I became nervous regarding which glasses were real and which were counterfeit when looking at Amazon and eBay. I ended up reviewing NASA’s recommended companies – there were only five companies at the time I looked, all approved by the American Astronomical Society – American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium (films only), Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17. The NASA site includes links to several other recommended companies now.
Some of the other manufacturers may be buying the films from these companies and making other glasses with the films, but I decided not to take any chances since I only have one set of eyes. So I went with the NASA and American Astronomical recommendations and went directly to the company websites. According to NASA, you need to check to see if your glasses have:
• ISO 12312-2 international certification
• Manufacturer’s name and address printed on the product
• Older than three years old should not be used (how do you tell)
• Do not use homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses
The certifications include ISO 12312-2 certification (passed a series of tests), the name of the company and more. ISO certification means that the glasses will block 99 percent of the sun’s light.
It’s About Money
The real problem is that all printed information is easy to counterfeit particularly if there is money to be made. The American Paper Optics even changed their design – but based on my experience the counterfeiters will also change their designs and quickly so even this feature may not be a real indication of authenticity.
Earlier last week, the American Astronomical Society said it updated its safety advice (list above) "in response to alarming reports" of unsafe "eclipse viewers" popping up online. According to the American Astronomical Society, "It now appears that some companies are printing the ISO logo and certification label on fake eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers made with materials that do not block enough light."
Don’t get me wrong some of these ‘fake’ glasses may work, and some of the manufacturers may have gotten in the game too late to submit all the paperwork required for certification and testing but I still did not want to take any chances on possibly obtaining counterfeit glasses. These counterfeits aren’t necessarily dangerous to use, but there just isn’t’ a guarantee that they will protect your eyes, and you may find out years later.
I ended up ordering glasses from the American Paper Optics website directly. Several of the other sites had already run out of glasses and the minimum you needed to order were 25 from American Paper Optics. Even though I have more glasses than I need –and paid too much for shipping at least I’ll have peace of mind that my eyes are safe. How much are your eyes worth?
Track and Trace for All Products
Which brings me back to the idea that people are willing to counterfeit - even very low-cost products. Counterfeiters do not spend any money on research or marketing. Anything counterfeiters can make a profit on are potential products for counterfeits. If you see something cheaper online than is sold mainstream, the product is suspect. Manufacturers must deploy track and trace applications and security controls on every product – not just food, pharmaceuticals, air bags, brake parts, medical devices, electronics, and explosives, particularly if manufacturers want to retain brand recognition, quality products and protect consumer safety. Deploying track and trace applications to prevent counterfeits from product inception to manufacturing and to the consumer, are more important than ever.