How to avoid buying counterfeit solar eclipse glasses

Experts offer tips on how to make sure your glasses are the real deal.

ByABC News
August 11, 2017, 2:38 PM

— -- Experts are urging Americans watching the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse to buy smart when purchasing the necessary protective eyewear.

With counterfeit eclipse glasses hitting the market, NASA and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) suggest that consumers purchase off their long list of verified products to ensure safe viewing.

Retired NASA astrophysicist and photographer Fred Espenak told ABC News that he has heard rumors of counterfeit glasses being sold online.

It is unclear if there are counterfeit glasses also being sold in stores or by street vendors.

"The only way you can be sure that they're not fake glasses is to buy them from a reliable source," Espenak said.

Espenak recommends that people stick to the AAS's approved list of companies that manufacture and/or sell eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers, which have been verified by an accredited testing laboratory to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard.

"They've been put through a testing procedure to demonstrate that they're dark enough to prevent visible as well as ultraviolet and infrared light from passing through it," Espenak said. "They've gone through various laboratory testing in order to be certified for ISO testing. Filters have to be validated by the same standard."

American Paper Optics is one of the manufacturers listed among the American Astronomical Society's 12 that meet the ISO standard. GSM Sales sells Soluna brand glasses on Amazon. The glasses are manufactured by American Paper Optics

Avoiding counterfeit

Unfortunately, some companies are placing an ISO label on their counterfeit glasses, which is why following the list of manufacturers is a surefire way to know you're being safe, according to the AAS.

American Paper Optics is one of the manufacturers listed among those that meets the ISO standard on the AAS website.

Jason Mitchell is a partner at GSM Sales, which sells Soluna-brand glasses on Amazon. The glasses are manufactured by American Paper Optics.

Mitchell told ABC News that the Soluna brand faced issues in July with some Amazon sellers copying its design and claiming to have certified glasses produced by American Paper Optics. Mitchell explained that this is not possible considering the fact that Soluna glasses are exclusively manufactured for GSM Sales.

"Amazon has now done a great job eliminating all other sellers that claimed to be selling legitimate Soluna glasses, so there are no longer any issues with the validity of the Soluna glasses on Amazon," Mitchell said.

PHOTO: Ina Schakaraschwili holds her glasses in place during a solar eclipse at the University of Denver's Chamberlain Observatory in this May 20, 2012 file photo
Ina Schakaraschwili holds her glasses in place during a solar eclipse at the University of Denver's Chamberlain Observatory in this May 20, 2012 file photo.
AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

"We are only selling the glasses on Amazon, so we cannot guarantee the validity of Soluna glasses purchased through any other site," he added. "The only way that valid Soluna glasses could be sold through another site is if they were first purchased from GSM Sales on Amazon. To guarantee the authenticity of the Soluna glasses, they must be purchased from GSM Sales on Amazon."

Amazon released a statement to ABC News in regards to glasses being sold on their site, "We require sellers to comply with all our policies, including their responsibility to source and sell only safe, authentic products. Eclipse glasses sold on are required to comply with the relevant ISO standard.”

Buying safe

Besides American Paper Optics, who makes Soluna glasses, here is a current list of other approved companies that manufacturer and/or sell glasses through vendors and retailers, according to the AAS.

  • American Paper Optics (Eclipser) / /

  • APM Telescopes (Sunfilter Glasses)*

  • Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold Film)* [see note]

  • Celestron (EclipSmart Glasses & Viewers)

  • Daylight Sky (plastic glasses only)

  • DayStar (Solar Glasses)

  • Explore Scientific (Solar Eclipse Sun Catcher Glasses)

  • Halo Solar Eclipse Spectacles

  • Lunt Solar Systems (SUNsafe SUNglasses) [see their unique kid-size eclipse glasses]

  • Meade Instruments (EclipseView Glasses & Viewers)

  • Rainbow Symphony (Eclipse Shades)

  • Seymour Solar (Helios Glasses)

  • Thousand Oaks Optical (Silver-Black Polymer & SolarLite)

  • TSE 17 (Solar Filter Foil)*

  • The AAS says on its website that just because they do not list a supplier, that does not indicate that "their products are unsafe," but rather that the AAS does not yet have the knowledge of that particular seller or that they have not verified the brand is safe.

    Solar eclipse, Japan, 2012.

    "You can't assume that they're not safe because they're not on the list ... this list is growing," Espenak said.

    Espenak said that there isn't any way to tell for certain if a set of eclipse glasses are counterfeit, but one indictor is if you are able to see something in the glasses other than the sun, which is why for now, the AAS suggests sticking to the current list of manufacturers when buying glasses.

    The consequence of wearing glasses that aren't specially made to deal with the visible light from a solar eclipse and invisible radiation could be "serious eye injury, perhaps even blindness," according to the AAS, which also noted that special-purpose solar filters are many thousands of times darker than ordinary sunglasses.

    Over 6,800 libraries across the country are distributing safety-certified glasses for the Aug. 21 eclipse, with many collaborating with scientists to hold viewing events and activities before and during the event. For a list of participating libraries distributing glasses from AAS’s approved list, click here.

    Quick tips for buying safety glasses, according to the AAS and Espenak:

  • Buy only from the AAS's approved list of ISO certified solar eclipse glasses.

  • When buying from online retailers, stick to buying from the manufacturer, brand or distributor with their name on the AAS list.

  • To test glasses for damages or scratches, Espenak suggests holding a pair up to your car headlights at nighttime to ensure no light comes through.

  • There could be a company selling what they claim to be genuine glasses off of the AAS list. The AAS says it's safer to buy directly from the company or brand's manufacturer whether buying online, or in person.

  • Remember, only the sun or the reflection of the sun in a mirror should be seen through a pair of safe solar eclipse glasses. If you're able to see something other than the sun, the glasses could be counterfeit, according to Espenak.

  • ABC News' Morgan Winsor contributed to this report.

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