Industry officials gave an update on the progress being made in setting a single international ISO standard for plano sunglass lenses, still with on objective to get it implemented by March 2012, at the annual convention of the European Sunglass Association in Barcelona a few days ago.

After two years of debate, the representatives of all the major countries basically approved the new ISO 12312-1 standard in March with the exception of China, which cast a negative vote, but they offered some 200 comments that were reviewed at the last ISO meeting in Shanghai on May 25-28. A final version was defined there after a full-day session, but some problems were encountered in the definition and the approval of the related test methods. These test methods are covered by a separate standard, and they are essential for the conclusion of the standardization process.

A September deadline has been set for the registration of the test method standard, after minor adjustments, or else all the work done so far will be canceled. In any case, it will be up to the European Union and the individual countries around the world to adopt the new ISO standard, with the option of adding some local requirements, especially for labeling. The important thing will be to define uniform test methods and equipment for sunglasses, sports eyewear and safety eyewear.

There is reasonable hope that the Australian government will adopt the new international standard, considering that it largely represents a compromise between the European and Australian standards. In general, the international standard has moved toward the more stringent Australian model for UV protection and road use, where the trend is more toward the detection of traffic lights, including new LED signals. On the other hand, the existing European standard will basically prevail in such areas as transmittance, optical power and some other characteristics.

In terms of the materials used, the discussion is focusing on a ban of harmful rather than allergenic substances. All agree that more information should be provided to the consumer at the point of sale about the properties of the sunglasses, especially in the hangtag accompanying the product, but there is a big question market being asked in Europe because of the need to display it in different languages. Furthermore, industry officials feel that the information has to be clearly understandable and not necessarily accompanied by lots of numbers and technical details that may generate confusion. The use of universally defined symbols being introduced by the new ISO standard is expected to meet this requirement.