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Eclipse eye damage warning

Friday December 31st, 2010

People wishing to witness a partial eclipse on January 4 risk eye damage and blindness if they look directly at the event, a senior doctor has warned.

A warning has been issued by the Government's Interim Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, who said looking directly at it could cause permanent damage their eyesight.

The moon is due to pass between the Sun and Earth between 8am and 9.30am on January 4, 2011.

Dame Sally Davies said: “Under no circumstances should people look directly at the sun during a partial eclipse. The risks of doing so are very real and could lead to irreversible damage to eyesight and even blindness.

“Children are particularly vulnerable as they may be tempted to take a peek. We would urge parents to explain the danger to their children.

“We would not wish to see another case like the young boy who lost his central vision back in October 2005 through looking directly at a partial eclipse in his school playground.”

She said the observing the eclipse through a telescope, binoculars or camera was unsafe, while sunglasses or photographic film were also inadequate and should not be used to view it. Only specially designed solar filters can be used to safely view the eclipse directly.

The safest way to watch the eclipse was on the television or live webcasts on the internet, added Dame Sally.

Anita Lightstone, Programme Director UK Vision Strategy, from the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said: "It is vital that people take the issue of eye safety seriously. People who look directly at the sun, even for as little as five seconds, risk permanent eye damage, even blindness."

From the UK, the eclipse will already have begun when the sun rises in the South-East after 8am and will end at or shortly after 9.30am.

Tags: A&E | Eye Health | UK News

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