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Exposure Geometry and Spectral Environment Determine Photobiological Effects on the Human Eye


  • David H. Sliney

    Corresponding author
    1. U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Laser/Optical Radiation Program, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD
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  • Posted on the website on 8 March 2005

  • The opinions or assertions herein are those of the author and should not be construed as official policies of the US Department of the Army or US Department of Defense.

*To whom correspondence should be addressed: US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Laser/Optical Radiation Program, MCHB-TS-OLO (Bldg. E-1950), 5158 Blackhawk Road, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD 21010-5403, USA. Fax: 410-436-5054; e-mail:


Photobiological effects upon the human retina, cornea and lens are highly dependent on the optical exposure geometry as well as spectral characteristics of the exposure. The organ of sight is exquisitely sensitive to light because it performs well in very low nighttime illumination levels and yet it also must adapt to extremely bright environments where light exposures are greater by many orders of magnitude. The eye has evolved to protect itself reasonably well against excessive exposure in bright environments. The retina is minimally exposed in extremely bright environments and the cornea and lens are surprisingly well protected in harsh environments. Although these protective mechanisms are good, they are not perfect and adverse changes from both acute and chronic exposures to sunlight still exist. The geometrical protective factors must be understood and appreciated whenever assessing potential adverse effects of environmental UV radiation and light on ocular structures. These natural ocular protective factors also work with the ever-changing spectrum of sunlight and the different spectral distribution of light and UV radiation across the eye's field of view. Spectral characteristics of the ocular media are also important. One can visualize a series of intraocular color filters that progressively filter shorter wavelengths and thereby aid in color vision, reduce the impact of chromatic aberrations and significantly reduce the optical radiation hazards to the lens and retina.