Web Extras: Eyewear -- Impact testing standards

There are a confusing number of standards that dictate how much protection is offered by eyewear. The FDA regulates eyewear, including sunglasses, as a medical device and one of the requirements is resistance to impacts. However, performance sport sunglasses go well beyond these minimal levels and are actually shatterproof.
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By Clyde Soles

For the complete story, see GearTrends® Fitness 2005, p. 104, "Eye Test"

Every year, around 100,000 people receive eye injuries while playing sports; nearly half require medical attention. Outdoor sports such as cycling and climbing require eye protection that will not shatter when struck by a flying object.

There are a confusing number of standards that dictate how much protection is offered by eyewear. The FDA regulates eyewear, including sunglasses, as a medical device and one of the requirements is resistance to impacts. However, performance sport sunglasses go well beyond these minimal levels and are actually shatterproof.

In August 2003, a new impact standard for eyewear The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published a revised impact standard for eyewear (Z87.1); the old standard was created in 1989. Written by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), ANSI Z87.1 offers two levels of pass/fail certification.

For the Basic Impact standard, lenses must not shatter when hit with a one inch (25.4 mm) steel ball dropped 50 inches (127 mm). It also must not allow a 1.56 oz. (44.2 g) needle dropped from the same height to penetrate. This is more stringent than the FDA requirements but insufficient for sports where flying objects are a significant hazard.

Eyewear certified to the High Impact standard are subjected to more severe testing. The lenses must stop a one-quarter inch (6.35 mm) steel ball traveling at 150 feet/second (45.7 m/s) — that's over 100 mph and has more than 4 times the energy of the basic test. The lens must also stay in the frame when hit with a 17.6 ounce (500 g) pointed projectile dropped from 50 inches. While this is a voluntary standard, manufacturers will often advertise their lenses pass the high-impact tests.

It's worth noting that glasses worn for shooting meet even tougher military standards. For MIL-V-43511C, a .22 caliber bullet is fired at 170 m/s (380 mph). And for MIL-PRF-31013, a .15 caliber bullet is fired at 250 m/s (560 mph).

Don't miss the full story, "Eye Test," in the GearTrends® Summer Outdoor 2005 issue. To download the full issue, go to www.geartrends.com/magazines.

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