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Journal of the Optical Society of America

Journal of the Optical Society of America

  • Vol. 42, Iss. 3 — Mar. 1, 1952
  • pp: 171–177

Alleged Effects of the Near Ultraviolet on Human Vision

GEORGE WALD  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA, Vol. 42, Issue 3, pp. 171-177 (1952)

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It has been reported that short exposures of the human eye to near ultraviolet radiation in the wavelength range 290–365 mµ produce appreciable changes in subsequent dark adaptation, and a lasting depression of visual sensitivity, rod and cone. These reports are hard to reconcile with the fact that only traces of such radiation reach the retina. Wavelengths shorter than 300 mµ are absorbed by the cornea of the eye, and they can do damage; longer wavelengths up to 400 mµ are absorbed in the lens. The assertion that such radiations affect the visual sensitivity is reexamined in the present paper. Exposures to ultraviolet light identical with those referred to produce no appreciable effects on subsequent dark adaptation of the normal eye, rod or cone. In lensless (aphakic) subjects, near ultraviolet radiation in the neighborhood of 365 mµ does reach the retina and is clearly visible. Even in such persons, exposure to the near ultraviolet does not affect the threshold of rod vision after 20 minutes of dark adaptation. The early portions of dark adaptation—the adaptation of the cones, and sometimes also the early rod thresholds—may be raised; but these changes are caused, not by intrinsic effects of the ultraviolet, but by the increased brightness to which it gives rise in the aphakic eye.

It is concluded that ultraviolet radiations which might harm the retina do not reach it; those which reach the retina do it no harm, and can at most be seen.

GEORGE WALD, "Alleged Effects of the Near Ultraviolet on Human Vision," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 42, 171-177 (1952)

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  1. E. Wolf, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 32, 219 (1946); Science, 105 366 (1947).
  2. Zigler, Wolf, and King, J. Opt. Soc. Am. 41, 354 (1951).
  3. G. Wald, Doc. Ophth. 3, 94 (1949).
  4. G. Wald, Science, 101, 653, (1945).
  5. H. Wagner, Arch. Ophthalmol. (Berlin) 138, 486 (1938).
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  8. W. Rohrschneider, Arch. Ophthalmol. (Berlin) 135, 282 (1936).
  9. G. Wald, J. Opt. Soc. Am. 35, 187 (1945).
  10. This experiment resembles one reported by Hulburt, [J. Opt. Soc. Am. 41, 402, (1951)], who had a dark adapted observer look for 3 minutes at an 85-watt high pressure mercury arc screened by the Corning 5860 glass, which transmits virtually nothing but the 365 mµ radiation. When the arc was turned off, this observer was found to recover complete dark adaptation within 5–10 seconds.
  11. E. Ludvigh and V. E. Kinsey, Science 104, 246 (1946)
  12. G. Wald and D. R. Griffin, J. Opt. Soc. Am. 37, 321 (1947).

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