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William Benevento, MD

Nearly half of the 2.5 million eye injuries that Americans suffer annually happen in and around the home in common places like the lawn, garden, kitchen or garage. Unfortunately, ophthalmologists are all too frequently called to the emergency room to evaluate someone who felt something hit their eye and now cannot see.

Spinning between 6,000 and 14,000 rpm, line trimmers can throw bits of nylon, rocks, and debris quite a distance. Worse yet, neither regular glasses nor moderate distances from the trimmer afford much protection. In a review of five trimmer–associated injuries, one 39 year old woman lost her eye in spite of prescription glasses and a 15 foot distance from the trimmer, a 19 year old operator had his sunglasses knocked off by a rock and bled inside his eye (but returned to 20/20 eventually), and an 8 year old lost his eye when his neighbor’s trimmer kicked up a one inch piece of metal from 30 feet away.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has released guidelines to protect against eye injuries:

1. While using powered lawn care equipment (or a grinder, saw, hammer, etc.) wear polycarbonate safety goggles with wrap-arounds or sideguards to prevent debris from entering around the frames. Regular spectacles offer little protection from flying debris. Every household should have at least one pair of ANSI-approved protective eyewear to be worn when doing projects and activities at home. ANSI-approved protective eyewear is manufactured to meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) eye protection standard. ANSI-approved protective eye wear can be easily purchased from most hardware stores, if a prescription is not needed. (ANSI-approved protective eyewear is not approved for use in sports.) For those who need glasses correction optical departments also carry safety glasses and can have your prescription put into them to ensure sharp vision while handling power equipment.

2. Innocent bystanders, especially children, are often the victims of eye injuries caused by power equipment. Bystanders should maintain a safe distance when equipment is in operation.

3. Lawns and gardens should be checked and raked for debris before using power tools.

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