Counterfeit eclipse glasses are selling online. How to spot fakes – National

As the excitement builds for the upcoming total solar eclipse, warnings about counterfeit and fake eclipse glasses are also popping up.

Looking directly at the sun without proper protection can lead to serious problems, such as partial or complete loss of eyesight, the Canadian Space Agency warns.

That is why it’s important to get internationally certified glasses that can prevent any damage to the eyes when you look up, experts say.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, aligning perfectly and completely blocking the sunlight. But any eclipse will start and end as a partial eclipse when the sun is not hidden in totality.

Click to play video: 'Queen’s University providing eyewear for Solar Eclipse'

Queen’s University providing eyewear for Solar Eclipse

“The problem with the eclipse (is that) because of that partial obstruction of the UV lights, we can actually look at the sun thinking, it’s okay because we’re not getting that same glare, discomfort that we usually get from the sun, and that’s when the damage actually occurs,” said Samir Jabbour, an ophthalmologist and cornea specialist in Montreal.

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“Damage can be done quite quickly just by looking at the sun for a few seconds and symptoms can start occurring within a couple weeks after the damage has occurred,” he said in an interview with Global News.

In Kingston, which is preparing for a total solar eclipse on April 8, Queen’s University alerted residents about knockoff eclipse glasses.

“We have found that COUNTERFEIT eclipse glasses are being sold online to people in Kingston – faked to look like glasses sold by Solar Eclipse International, Canada (SEIC),” the university said in a post Tuesday on X.

“These glasses do NOT stop enough sunlight to be safe.  You can tell by looking at household lights – if you can see the lights easily, these should be DISCARDED.”

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The American Astronomical Society also issued a warning last week about counterfeit and fake eclipse glasses “polluting the marketplace.”

Celestial Optical, a U.S.-based company, says thousands of counterfeit versions of their eclipse glasses have been sold on

“Towards the middle of February, we noticed the marketplace was being flooded with counterfeits of our authentic EclipseGuard glasses,” said Adam Levy, president of Celestial Optical, in a statement to Global News.

“Thankfully, the problems on have been solved, but for a three-week period, unscrupulous overseas seller accounts had hijacked our own product listings with ultra-discount pricing, pushing aside our own authentic and safe products.”

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The company estimates at least 10,000 packs or roughly 100,000 counterfeit versions of their eclipse glasses were sold online, before took down those product listings.

“Sadly, we have seen counterfeits of products from other reputable manufacturers as well and it seems all counterfeits are missing the metallic layer on the sun facing side,” Levy said.

An Amazon spokesperson told Global News that it continuously monitor its store and takes action to maintain a safe selection for customers, including removing non-compliant products.

Meanwhile, Health Canada told Global News that it has not received any reports of fake or counterfeit solar eclipse glasses being sold in the country.

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Which eclipse glasses are safe?

Many Canadians will get to witness the total solar eclipse, the first to cross the country since 1979.

On April 8, the solar eclipse’s path of totality will pass through parts of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Cities and towns outside the path of totality will see a partial solar eclipse.

People watching an eclipse should be wearing special glasses that meet the safety requirements of the ISO 12312-2 international standard.

Having the ISO standard means those glasses are inspected for safety and damaging rays won’t go through them, said Mark Eltis, a Toronto-based optometrist, in a previous interview with Global News.

A street vendor sells certificated sun glasses to watch the total solar eclipse in Pucon, Chile on December 12, 2020.

Photo by MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP via Getty Images

According to the AAS, this standard is set based on several properties such as transmittance, uniformity of transmittance, material and surface quality, mounting and labeling.

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However, even counterfeit or fake eclipse glasses and other solar viewers can be labeled as ISO-compliant without being properly tested for safety, experts say.

“You’re going to find a lot of merchants that might be selling these online, and they might claim that they have this protection, but we’re not really sure if they’re actually well protected,” Jabbour said.

He said the best way find reliable merchants for safe eclipse sunglasses are by checking the list of suppliers vetted by the American Astronomical Society. It includes several authorized dealers in Canada.

Jabbour said you should also make sure that the glasses you get are not scratched because that can allow the ultraviolet (UV) light to enter your retina and cause damage.

Without a lab test, it is difficult for the naked eye to tell if a pair of eclipse glasses meet the ISO standard, since any vendor can slap the ISO logo on their product.

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That is why getting them from a reliable source is important, Jabbour said.

However, there are some red flags to watch out for.

Joanne Hostetter, an employee with Explore Scientific, works on preparing Sun Catcher solar eclipse glasses to ship out to customers from the Explore Scientific store Tuesday Jan. 30, 2024, in Springdale, Ark.

AP Photo/Michael Woods

Levy, of Celestial Optical, said that counterfeits of their eclipse glasses do not show their name and address, which is a requirement of the ISO specification.

The sun-facing side of their glasses also has a metallic coating essential for safe solar viewing, unlike counterfeits, which typically have matte black lenses on both sides, the company noted in a March 19 news release.  

The AAS says on its website that you shouldn’t be able to see anything through proper eclipse glasses, except for very bright lights, which should appear very faint through the glasses.

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“If you can see anything else, such as household furnishings or pictures on the wall, your glasses aren’t dark enough for solar viewing.”

You can also test the glasses outside on a sunny day and make sure that the sun’s reflection off the surface appears very faint, AAS says.

And if you briefly look directly at the sun with legitimate eclipse eyewear, you should see a sharp-edged, round disk that’s comfortably bright.

Click to play video: 'Excitement mounting for Montreal’s total solar eclipse'

Excitement mounting for Montreal’s total solar eclipse

How to watch the eclipse safely

Regular sunglasses should not be worn while looking at the eclipse, experts say.

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Eltis suggests that when you put your special eclipse glasses on, you should look down at the ground before looking up at the sun, and then look down again after viewing the eclipse.

While it may be tempting to take off your eclipse glasses at the time of totality — which will last between one and four minutes — Eltis cautioned that it could be dangerous if you are not sure when exactly the total solar eclipse is happening. Even a sliver of sunlight can do damage to the eyes.

If you’re worried about directly looking at the eclipse, you can also view it indirectly through a pinhole projector.

Children should be fully supervised during the eclipse, both Eltis and Jabbour stressed.

— With files from Global News’ Katherine Ward and Eric Stober

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