When most people go out to mow the lawn, jump-start the car or gear up to do some serious spring cleaning, the last thing they think about is their eyes, but it should be one of the first.

In honor of Eye Injury Prevention Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of July, eye doctors across the country are urging Americans to stop endangering their eyes. They are warning people to protect their eyes from extraordinary damage caused by even the most ordinary of activities. "According to the U.S. Eye Injury Registry, 43 percent of eye injuries occur within the home," said Dr. V. Vinod Mootha, a University of New Mexico eye doctor and director of the New Mexico Eye Injury Registry at the UNM School of Medicine. "But 90 percent of these eye injuries are preventable if you take safety precautions and use a little common sense. Many times, all that's needed to prevent vision loss and blinding injuries is a pair of tight-fitting goggles available at hardware stores," he added.

Mootha tells people to keep a pair of goggles in the trunk for when they need to jump-start their car. "Battery acid, sparks and debris flying from damaged or improperly jump-started auto batteries can severely damage the eyes."

Many household chemicals, such as cleaning fluids, detergents and ammonia, are extremely hazardous and can burn the eye's delicate tissues. When using chemicals for home improvement, always read instructions and labels carefully, work in a well-ventilated area and make sure spray nozzles point away from you and others before spraying. After use, wash your hands thoroughly. Goggles are advisable, especially when spraying or splashing is involved.

Before using a lawnmower, power trimmer or edger, be sure to check for rocks and stones in addition to putting on your goggles. Stones, twigs, and other debris can become dangerous projectiles after shooting out of the blades of a lawnmower, potentially injuring your eyes or those of innocent bystanders.

"This time of year, I also warn people about one of the most dangerous activities, in terms of eye injuries," adds Mootha. "Each year hundreds of people end up with terrible eye injuries and burns from fireworks, and a lot of the victims are bystanders and children. There's just no way to use fireworks at home safely. Even sparklers burn at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt gold. I tell all my patients, 'Go see a professional show-it's cheaper, safer and more beautiful.'"

Data collected by the Eye Injury Registry demonstrates that "bottle rockets" cause most eye injuries. The average age of those injured is fifteen, and nearly half of the injuries result in legal blindness. Two-thirds of fireworks injuries occur during the Fourth of July holiday.

"Prevention is the first and most important step in avoiding serious eye injuries," suggested Mootha, "so be sure to protect your eyes with appropriate protective eyewear."


Contact: Lynn Melton, 272-3322