x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Sunglasses that can damage your eyes

Faux designer brands might not provide protection against UAV rays and their lenses could injure the wearer.

Experts say fake sunglasses can have distorted lenses that cut visibility and create eye discomfort.
Experts say fake sunglasses can have distorted lenses that cut visibility and create eye discomfort.

ABU DHABI // In small shops on Hamdan Street, there are simply unbelievable bargains to be had on designer sunglasses. Models by Calvin Klein and Burberry are selling for less than Dh100. Or so it seems. A closer look reveals that sunglasses that appear to carry Calvin Klein's logo actually read "GK". And the Burberry offering bears a sticker that reads "Burderry". It is hardly a revelation. Fake designer sunglasses can be found across the capital, indeed around the world.

But health and eyewear experts warn that while such sunglasses may look like the real thing, many provide no protection from the sun's UVA rays and may result in eye damage. With the strength of the sun in the region, it is important to buy sunglasses from reputable establishments ensuring 100 per cent protection from both UVA and UVB rays to avoid visual impairment later in life, said Dr Jon Craig, a primary care physician at the American Hospital Dubai.

"All sunglasses, even fake ones, block against UVB rays," Dr Craig said. "However, they might not block UVA rays, which are more damaging and more worrying as UVA damages the lens which causes cataracts in later life." Thickness of the lens is also important, said Dr John Steile, chief of optometry and refractive surgery at Magrabi Eye Hospital in Dubai. "There is a required thickness of the lenses for protection, and counterfeit glasses have minimal thickness which break easily and risk trauma to the eye."

Cheaply made counterfeit glasses can also have distorted lenses that cut visibility, create eye discomfort and lead to headaches, he said. This week, The National purchased five pairs of counterfeit glasses for between Dh20 and Dh30 each in Abu Dhabi shops. The shops had many designer versions for sale, also including ones purportedly by Oakley, Calvin Klein and Emporio Armani. At one shop on Hamdan Street, fake Oakleys and Calvin Kleins were on display for Dh30 on a "buy one, get one free" offer. At another store, a pair of faux Prada sunglasses bore a sticker promising 100 per cent protection against harmful rays, and down the street a pair bearing the Burberry insignia were on sale for Dh90.

High-end sunglasses often retail for between Dh1,000 (US$270) and Dh2,000, or more. Shopkeepers selling the obvious fakes did not want to be interviewed. In January the Consumer Protection Centre in Sharjah ordered almost 144,000 counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses destroyed and their would-be distributor fined US$4,000. The glasses were discovered during a raid at the local China Optical Centre distributor. According to one of the world's leading eyewear manufacturers and distributors, Luxottica Group of Italy, consumers cannot be guaranteed products are original unless they buy from the brand's own shop or a medically licensed optical shop.

Luca Biondolillo, the group director of international communications, said those who really end up suffering from counterfeit products are consumers themselves. The company, whose brands include Oakley, Ray-Ban, Burberry, Prada, and Chanel, also says it is pursues people and businesses selling the fakes - when it finds them. "Laws of different countries and regions call for technical procedures that protect individuals' eyes," he said. "Only when you buy the real product are you ensured that those standards are met."

Jessica Williamson, an American shopper at Al Wahda Mall, found that buying cheap, counterfeit sunglasses was not cost-effective. "Since I came here I've bought many pairs of fake sunglasses because of the cheap prices, but none of them lasted very long," she said. "So I decided to buy a real Ralph Lauren pair from an optical shop, even if it was more expensive, so they would last for a longer time. I really need them, living here, because of the constant strong sunlight."