Tag: news

Viewing the Solar Eclipse – Hype or Hazard

A total solar eclipse is a big deal, although it seems like it might be a bigger deal for some people than it is for others.

What kind of eclipse will you be able to see on August 21st? Map courtesy of NASA.
What kind of eclipse will you be able to see on August 21st? Map courtesy of NASA.

It does start to seem like a bigger deal the more you learn about it…

Solar Eclipse HYPE

Still, there is a lot of hype surrounding the upcoming solar eclipse in the United States.

“Observing a total solar eclipse is a life-changing event. It challenges everything you conceive of as normal.”

Sean Lindsay on the Eclipse hype

Do you buy it?

  • will looking at the eclipse make you go blind?
  • will seeing the eclipse change your life?
  • will you regret missing the eclipse for the rest of your life?

While viewing the eclipse won’t make you go blind, at least not instantaneously, what about all of the hype about how important an event the eclipse is to view? That part has to be true, right?

“A partial eclipse is interesting but forgettable, while a total eclipse is a memorable, life-changing event which burns itself into memory – and never fades. And so we, who have seen this sight, ask you to join us on this momentous day, and do everything you possibly can to see it with us. But you must remember that “close” is not close enough; in order to see the eclipse in all its glory, you simply must…”

“Close” is NOT close enough!

It is for some people. And you might not know if you or your kids are that type of person unless you go and see the eclipse! In totality!

Solar Eclipse HAZARD

  • seeing the eclipse without protection will damage your eyes

We all know that you shouldn’t look directly at the sun or your eyes will get damaged.

And in most cases, you can’t.

It hurts to look at the sun. You’re pupils will constrict. You will blink a lot. And you will very quickly turn away.

At least in normal circumstances.

A solar eclipse is not a normal circumstance.

Since most of the sun is covered, you could likely stare at it (but definitely shouldn’t) and get a good long look at the eclipse. Unfortunately, the part that isn’t covered will be painlessly damaging your eyes, leading to burns on your retina and solar retinopathy.

But isn’t all of the sun covered in a total solar eclipse?

“During the very brief time the sun is in total solar eclipse it is safe to look at it, but do so with caution. Even during the total solar eclipse, the total eclipse may last only a short period of time, and if you are looking towards the sun as the moon moves away from blocking the sun, you might get a solar burn on your retina which can cause permanent damage to your eyes.”

Prevent Blindness America

Yes, but only for a very short time and only if you are in the path of totality.

During totality, it is safe to take your eclipse glasses off and look at the eclipse, being aware that totality may last only a minute or two.

This diamond ring means that the eclipse is not at totality yet and you still need eye protection to look at the sun.
This diamond ring means that the eclipse is not at totality yet and you still need eye protection to look at the sun. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Again, you must be very sure that you are inside the path of totality for a chance at looking at the eclipse without protection – a 70-mile wide band from central Oregon through South Carolina.

If you are not in this relatively narrow band, you will still be able to see a partial solar eclipse, but at no time will it be safe to view the eclipse without protection.

Are you going to be able to see a total or partial eclipse on August 21st?
Are you going to be able to see a total or partial eclipse on August 21st?

Remember that even if you live in or have traveled to a spot inside the path of totality, the total eclipse itself will only last a few minutes.

The whole eclipse will last much longer though.

From the start of the eclipse, to maximum eclipse, to the end of the eclipse, you might be looking at a three hour event. That’s a lot of time to be at risk of looking at the sun outside of totality and getting eye damage if you aren’t wearing protection.

Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

What kind of protection do you need to safely view a solar eclipse.

Fortunately, you have a lot of options.

This solar eclipse viewing protection can include using:

  • solar filters, including ISO 12312-2 compliant eclipse glasses that have been sold online in packs of 5 or 10 (but including some that have been recalled), handheld solar viewers,  and full aperature solar filters for cameras and telescopes
  • a pin-hole viewer that you can easily make yourself with something as common as a cereal box
  • a 2D or 3D printable pinhole projector
  • a solar viewing projector using binoculars or a telescope (not looking through the telescope itself though, unless it had a proper solar filter!)
  • No. 13 or 14 welder’s glasses

But unless you are building a pin-hole viewer or are going to an official eclipse viewing event, be sure your protection is really going to protect your child’s eyes. Are the eclipse glasses you ordered fake, recalled, scratched, or damaged? Then don’t use them.

And make sure younger children are well supervised during the entire eclipse, so that they don’t look at the eclipse at any time that you are outside the time that you are in totality.

Some people will have a better chance of viewing a total solar eclipse in 2024.
Some people will have a better chance of viewing a total solar eclipse in 2024.

What if they miss it?

They won’t have to wait too long for the next total solar eclipse. Another one is headed our way in 2024.

What to Know About Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

I don’t know if it will change your child’s life, but there is no good reason to let them miss this total solar eclipse (or partial eclipse if you aren’t in the path of totality), as long as you take some very simple steps to make sure they view it safely.

More About Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

Tom Price as HHS Secretary – Good for Kids?

Many are describing President-elect’s choice of Representative Tom Price as the secretary of health and human services as “scary” and a “radical choice.”

To understand why, you should both understand what he believes and what his job will be.

The HHS Secretary

HHS Secretary Sebelius at a meeting of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.
HHS Secretary Sebelius, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, and others, listen to a speech at the a meeting of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, July 10, 2012. (HHS photo by Chris Smith)

Surprisingly, few people probably know the name of the current HHS secretary – Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

She succeeded Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned in 2014, mostly over problems with the healthcare.gov website and roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.

What does the HHS Secretary do?

As head of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the HHS Secretary is a member of the President’s Cabinet and overseas the:

  • Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
  • Administration for Community Living (ACL)
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
  • Indian Health Service (IHS)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

As you probably recognize at least a few of those names, like the FDA, CDC, and NIH, you likely know that these agencies “administer a wide variety of health and human services and conduct life-saving research for the nation, protecting and serving all Americans.”

That work can be seen in the current strategic plan of the HHS:

  1. To Strengthen Health Care
  2. To Advance Scientific Knowledge and Innovation
  3. To Advance the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of the American People
  4. To Ensure Efficiency, Transparency, Accountability, and Effectiveness of HHS Programs

And it can be seen in many of the current problems they are tackling, such as combating the opioid epidemic, lead poisoning hazards, the Zika virus, and continuing to get more people insurance coverage, etc.

Problems with Tom Price as HHS Secretary

So what might be the problem with Rep. Tom Price as HHS Secretary, after all, he is a doctor and has been endorsed by the AMA?

“The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons recommends a policy of Non-Participation to all physicians as the only legal, moral, and ethical means of concretely expressing their complete disapproval of the spirit and philosophy behind these amendments.”

THE PRINCIPLES OF MEDICAL ETHICS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS

Tom Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), an organization of doctors that was opposed to the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid and which tells its members that it is “legal, moral, and ethical” to not treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid.

The AAPS is also against birth control and pushes a lot of anti-vaccine misinformation that can scare parents away from getting their kids vaccinated and protected against vaccine-preventable diseases!

A Radical Choice

In describing Tom Price as a “radical choice” for HHS Secretary, the New York Times stated that he is “a man intent on systematically weakening, if not demolishing, the nation’s health care safety net.”

In addition to supporting the repeal of Obamacare, Tom Price is a climate change denier, and has been in favor of:

  • block granting Medicaid
  • turning Medicare into a voucher program, which many think is a step towards privatization
  • barring all federal funds for Planned Parenthood, even though the very great majority of their activities have nothing to do with abortion
  • limiting participation in Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and voting against expanding CHIP several times
  • cutting billions of dollars from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) as it was converted to a State Flexibility Fund in the 2015 GOP proposed budget
  • continuing to ban research on gun violence at the CDC as he did not sign a letter with a bipartisan group of 146 other members of Congress, led by Congressman David Price, calling for a lift of the de-facto ban on federal gun violence research

And although his nomination was supported by the AMA, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), there are many doctors and medical students who think that “Price’s stances are incompatible with the values of the medical profession and with the stated missions of the above organizations.”

The AAP on the Nomination of Tom Price

What has the American Academy of Pediatrics said about Tom Price’s nomination?

“Above all, HHS should strive to implement an agenda with children at the core and ensure that all children have access to high-quality, affordable health care so they can thrive throughout their lifetimes. All children, regardless of their immigration status, should have affordable health care coverage, insurance with pediatric-appropriate benefits, access to timely and affordable primary and subspecialty pediatric care and mental health services, and receive comprehensive, family-centered care in a medical home.”

AAP’s Blueprint for Children

As is their style, they have not issued a statement, but reviewing the AAP’s Blueprint for Children, it isn’t too hard to figure out what they would say.

Members of the American Academy of Pediatrics routinely volunteer to lobby members of Congress to support pediatric issues, like CHIP re-authorization.
Although they are not always successful, members of the American Academy of Pediatrics routinely volunteer to lobby members of Congress to support pediatric issues, like CHIP re-authorization.

The Blueprint, which “presents specific policy recommendations for the federal government to align its activities to promote healthy children, support secure families, build strong communities, and ensure that the United States is a leading nation for children,” states that they:

  • oppose block grants for Medicaid and other entitlement programs
  • support renewing and strengthening CHIP
  • support maternal and reproductive health programs
  • want to improve access to Medicaid services
  • support protecting and strengthening federal nutrition programs for children and families, including SNAP and WIC
  • support federally funded research to build the evidence base for a public health response to violence, including research on gun violence coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • want the administration to aggressively addresses climate change
  • support the enactment of comprehensive immigration reform that prioritizes the health, well-being, and safety of children
  • want the administration to address factors that make some children more vulnerable than others, such as race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, and disability

And perhaps the thing that is most apparently in conflict with Tom Price’s nomination, the AAP states that they want the HHS secretary and Congress to:

Support and improve the ACA. The ACA has made important progress for children. Congress should improve upon this progress and enhance pediatric benefits in the marketplaces, allow families that are not eligible for CHIP to purchase CHIP plans in the health insurance marketplaces, improve affordability of plans for families (especially those with children with special health care needs), and strengthen rules to ensure that adequate pediatric networks exist in marketplace plans.”

Tom Price is not going to support and improve the ACA (Obamacare), strengthen CHIP, or improve access to Medicaid services. He is basically against just about everything the American Academy of Pediatrics supports and has been working for.

We don’t need a statement from the AAP to know what that means.