GALENA - Schoolchildren in this small village have been provided with space-age protection for their eyes.
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A total of 150 pairs of special sunglasses, with golden-hued lenses made from similar material to that used for the face shields on NASA space suits, were donated to the Galena City School District to be distributed to the students.
Alan Mittelman, president of Eagle Eyes, said the special lenses block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays - harmful ultraviolet radiation that can damage the eyes. Additionally, the glasses block blue light, he said, which can destroy the retina of the eye.
The California-based company chose to donate the glasses to the children in Galena, Mittelman said, because the community experiences so much sunlight in the summer and has so much snow glare in the winter. The company wanted to encourage the children to start protecting their eyes at an early age.
"That's the one age group that really doesn't wear protection," Mittelman said of children. "You need to start a lot earlier protecting the retina before it's too late."
Fairbanks optometrist James Taylor, who travels to Galena about once a year to perform eye checks with Tanana Chiefs Conference, said wearing sunglasses is vital especially during the winter months when sunlight reflecting off of snow can do severe eye damage.
"The danger is increased in the winter because you're tempted to think the sun isn't a problem," he said.
Taylor added that people in Galena aren't at any more risk for eye damage or cancer than anyone else in the state.
The sunglasses were delivered to the school on Wednesday by representatives from the Space Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes the study of space and the everyday use of space technologies.
The group, including former astronaut Livingston Holder, was visiting Galena to encourage students to consider working in the space industry.
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