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Choosing the Right Pair of Sunglasses

A necessary piece of equipment for any trip to the Florida Keys is a good pair of sunglasses. The right kind will protect your eyes from a tropical glare they are unaccustomed to, and will vastly improve the entire visual experience.

There is no question about the importance of UV (ultraviolet radiation) protection. Although invisible to the naked eye, it's present in all natural and fluorescent light. Short-term effects of UV radiation, which occur from exposure to excessive amounts over a short period of time, such as from a welder's arc or a full day at the beach, are similar to a sunburn: They can be painful but are usually temporary and rarely cause permanent damage.

Long-term effects of UV radiation, on the other hand, happen slowly and painlessly. Research has found that UV rays are involved in many serious eye disorders people experience today, including cataracts. Because of reflection, people who spend time around the water are exposed to levels of UV radiation two to three times that which is normally experienced. The Keys' latitude, lovely white reflecting sands, and shining seas make the potential for damage greater here than anywhere else in the country.

The solution is to wear sunglasses that have polarized lenses. They will block 100 percent of the UV radiation and cut the glare coming off the water so you can see beneath the surface. The next step is to choose a lens color, and for that take a tip from fishing enthusiasts. When they want to spot fish in clear, shallow water, serious anglers use high contrast lenses that have a tan, amber, brown, or vermillion component. These colors will cause the warm colors to pop out—the yellows, greens, and reds which are the colors of things you'll want to see such as reefs and grasses.

Being able to see through the glare and pick out colors on the bay and ocean bottom will enhance every view, every scene. From bridges and boats you'll see more fish and wildlife, and more of the Florida Keys.

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