The eyes are the window to the soul, and furthermore, according to psychologist David Ludden, our pupils dilate when we encounter an attractive person. All of this tells us that we have good reason to cherish our eyes (and those of our desired mates); however, all too often we find ourselves with jobs that could be compromising our eyes. Not just computer jobs (although those certainly have their place in the ranks), but also mechanical and chemical. Anything involving sharp objects, grit, the risk of head impact, or exposure to ultraviolet light can pose a serious threat to one’s vision.
Thankfully, regular domestic use microwaves have not been proven to damage the eyes. Assuming that absence of evidence is evidence of absence in this case, at least we know that regardless of our profession, we will be safe when we come home and heat up leftovers.
We depend on our eyesight to function, from our jobs, our leisure activities, and (as we have seen) our selection of mates. Plus, we need our eyes to solve those charts at the eye doctor every two years (on a related note, did you know that one’s vision can actually be greater than 20/20; 20/20 is simply the measure of “normal visual acuity”).
Welding is another notoriously dangerous occupation. The process involves joining two metals thermoplastics using pressure and heat. The join produced from the molten material can result in a product that is potentially stronger than the original metal. The Department of Labor reports the median annual salary to be about $38,000, and the average growth is about 4%. Still, it’s not without risk that one chooses this profession. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reports that “welding, cutting, and brazing are hazardous activities that pose a unique combination of both safety and health risks to more than 500,000 workers.” The reasons are perhaps obvious: one’s eyes are routinely exposed to constant high heat and the resulting bright light. This is to say nothing of the grit and debris that is likely to fly off from the welding torch. Being in a welding factory is much like driving; just because you are responsible for your own project doesn’t mean you are not at the mercy of everyone else around you.
14. Verizon Customer Service Representative
Selling cell phones is a dangerous business. It might not come as a surprise that using a smart phone can damage one’s eyes. After all, the radio waves that cell phones emit have been suspected of (if not proven conclusively to) cause cancer. Smartphones, however, pose a singular threat; they emit blue light that is toxic to the back of our eyes, which in turn makes us better candidates for macular degeneration (to say nothing of more frequent headaches). To reduce these risks, opticians recommend taking frequent breaks from our computers and smartphones. This might be hard to do if you find yourself behind the desk at a Verizon store—a capacity in which your administrative and sales duties involve a computer, phone, or tablet (though let’s be honest, it’s pretty bad news for the rest of us, too). Consequently, it is safe to say that this job poses more health risk than for a customer entering into a contract.
13. Chemical Lab Technician
Lab technicians are a niche that should have some staying power, in our age of research and development in industries spanning medicine to food. U.S. News reports a median salary of $38,370, and the credentials are relatively easy to obtain. An associates degree from a community college or junior college is usually enough. This job, insofar as it involves chemicals on a daily basis, is especially risky to one’s eyes. For example, dental lab technicians, who are constantly exposed to benzoyl peroxide, often report allergic reactions in their eyes, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Lab technicians are also subject to prolonged straining of the eyes, which results from visual inspection of, charts, spreadsheets, and (as in the case of dental lab technicians), even teeth. Even when gloves are worn, it is highly likely that foreign bodies enter one’s eyes, which are inherently more difficult to protect with surety than one’s skin.
The American Optometric Association defines computer vision syndrome (CVS), as “the complex of eye and vision problems related to near work experienced during computer use.” It has a demonstrable effect on over 65% of people, and 90% of people who spend as few as three hours per day in front of a computer screen. Surely, you might think, this does not bode well for those who spend nearly eight hours per day at a computer, as is the case for administrative assistants, who provide clerical support from producing statistical reports to scheduling meetings to managing online correspondence (the median annual wage for this job is listed as $53,370). The comparatively high median salary, however, might not be worth the risk. The symptoms, too, of CVS are manifold, and include “eyestrain, dry eyes, blurred vision, red or pink eyes, burning, light sensitivity, headaches and pain in the shoulders, neck and back.”
11. Data Analyst
Another category of workers who are notoriously bound to their desks is represented by the expansive class of analysts, including (but not limited to), computer systems analysts, information security analysts, and operations research analysts. These statistician-types spend their days staring at their computers, toggling among spreadsheets. The occasional breaks for these hard-working individuals generally include reading their emails. Sure, median incomes range from $75,000-$90,000 per year, and the job growth outlook is 18%; however, it is not worth the almost-guaranteed victimization to CVS unless one is wiling to take the recommended precautions. The American Optometric Association recommends taking breaks following the so-called “20-20-20 Rule,” which prescribes taking a twenty second break, viewing an object twenty feet away, for twenty minutes. Whether we fall into this occupational category or not, we would be well-served by abiding by this advice. It might be difficult to take this recommended break, but at least the process is fairly straightforward.
This is arguably one of the cushiest jobs in the world. As a former lifeguard myself, I was sorely disappointed when I realized that it was not enough to cover a car payment, let alone turn itself into a career. That said, it offers the potential for year-round work, often for young adults, in tropical climates. The risks to one’s eyes, however, are as obvious as they are severe; lifeguards out of necessity regularly stare at UV rays. The UV rays in sunlight can also seriously damage the eyes. Sun damage can contribute to cataracts, macular degeneration, and corneal damage. It’s imperative that lifeguards get good sunglasses, equipped with polarized lenses. Polarized lenses, while adding a nontrivial amount to the price tag of a new pair of Ray-Bans or Maui Jim’s, can screen out up to 99% of UVA and UVB rays. In addition to the eye risks inherent to lifeguarding, they are also, as of 2009, exempt from minimum wage laws (according to the Department of Labor itself).
9. ER Nurse
Did you know that not getting enough sleep can actually cause eye damage? Our eyes require tears to lubricate them, and a lack of sleep result sin dry eye, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. Sure, that’s uncomfortable, but at least the damage isn’t permanent, right? Wrong. In fact, sleep deprivation over extended periods of time, or consistently suffered, has been attributed to serious eye conditions such as Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy. It can also cause eye spasms. Among others, perhaps the single occupation most likely to be a culprit of this nature is that of Emergency Room nurse. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that they can earn as much as $67,000. Furthermore, the anticipated job growth (16%) is significantly faster than the national average. That said, the benefits hardly outweigh the risk of permanent damage to one’s eyes (to say nothing of the exposure to, germs, viruses, disgruntled patients, and stress…)
Electricians have perhaps the riskiest job of the lot. Not only are they exposed to the light and heat, they are also at risk of experiencing electrical burns. An electrical burn is suffered when one’s body comes into contact with an electrical source and becomes a part of the electrical circuit. The level of damage depends on the voltage, and internal damage is difficult to spot. A common corollary to these electrical burns are ocular burns, which can even damage the eye’s cornea. Form an occupational perspective, electricians always seem to be in high demand. The median salary is reported as a respectable $51,00, and the work is expected to be steady for the foreseeable future. But the constant exposure to potential hazardous light, heat, and electrical current means that they might be better of finding another trade. N.B. In the case of an ocular burn, MedScape recommends visiting the Emergency Room as soon as possible. Let us hope that those ER nurses have been getting enough sleep!
7. Automotive Technician
Automotive technicians are notoriously brutal on hands. Car mechanics are constantly handle greasy, heavy, and sharp auto parts. A less obvious fact is that car mechanics spend much of the day in contorted positions, hunched over examining engines under hoods and even on the ground beneath the chassis. The hazards don’t end there. Car mechanics are especially at risk for eye injuries. HealthDay reports that “eye injury may be the most common mishap in the business.” This, they explain, owes to the sparks that result from the use of bench grinders and cutting torches. Thankfully, they also explain that these risks can all be eliminated by the use of safety goggles. Car mechanics make an average of $37,000, according to U.S. News, and job growth rate, 5%, mirrors the national average. Independently owned car shops are not required to mandate the use of safety goggles, but they would be well advised to do so.
Archaeologists are potential victims of eye strain, Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), and sun exposure all in one. It is near-common knowledge that eye strain is a symptom that results from prolonged use of the eyes. UVB rays, as in the case of lifeguards, are nearly impossible to avoid for archaeologists. Exposure to this type of sunlight can cause a condition known as pterygium, which is manifest by surface legions on the eyes. In addition to excessive sunlight, is also caused by overexposure to wind and dust, which led to its colloquial name, “Surfer’s Eye.” Although benign, pterygium is a growth, and so can spread to the extent that it results in vision loss. It can be removed using radiation or auto-grafting. Given the fact that to earn even the snug salary of $50,000, an archaeologist must amass years of training and obtain advanced degrees, such an intensive treatment is probably not a viable option (nor is the condition itself particularly attractive).
5. Crop Worker
Crop workers are in largely the same boat as archaeologists with respect to sun, grit, and wind exposure. In addition to pterygium, the sun hitting the eyes regularly for a sustained period of time can indeed cause a veritable type of sunburn for the eye. The symptoms of this are a foreign body sensation (that is, the constant feeling that something is in your eye), photophobia, and partial or complete vision loss. So, if you’re a crop worker and you often feel like you’ve got a piece of dust in your eye, it might be worth seeing an eye doctor.
Furthermore, eyes can be the conduit for diseases such as Hepatitis B, HIV, and avian influenza (yes, the bird flu). So for agricultural workers who encounter livestock on a daily basis, it is not enough to wear skin protection. The only way to nearly eliminate risk is to wear full-cover eye protection, which is uncommon, as safety goggles don’t exactly have the appeal of Oakleys in bright sun.
4. Manufacturing Machinist (fabricating metals and primary metals)
The American Optometric Association includes manufacturers on the short list of fewer than ten professions who are especially at risk for eye injury. Manufacturers are using their hands on a regular basis, and they encounter an especially large amount of debris. These jobs routinely involve dealing with raw goods and transforming them into marketable products. Many manufacturing firms require the use of side shields on glasses. Their risk is doubled because they use sharp objects for cutting and grinding. Turning lathes, unique to the profession, need to be operated with utmost caution, which is why many engineering facilities (such as the Dyson Center for Engineering Design) stipulate the necessity of using eye protection. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) includes mining in the manufacturing category. These workers are at especial risk because of their constant exposure to sand and gravel, which they sometimes produce in their grinding and preparing of lapidary products.
3. Food Process Worker
Have you ever wondered how your peas, carrots, and tuna fish all get into their individual little cans? It is the work of food processors, whose job involves the manufacturing and packaging of a variety of food items. Food process worker, you would typically work in a production line, where food passing down on conveyor belts with separate mixing, cooking and packaging stages. These conveyor belts can move fast, resulting in a high likelihood of food shrapnel ending up in the eyes of its workers. Food processing can be risky business. In fact, according to Career Overview, workers in the meatpacking industry experience the highest frequency of illness and injury. Also, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, junk food may be bad for your eyesight. Studies have shown that specifically, fatty foods can lead to macular degeneration in old age. So food processors are better off not snacking while on duty.
2. Truck Driver
Truck drivers, too, are prone to their share of risks. The obvious ones include obesity, inaccessibility of regular healthcare, and modest pay (the Bureau of Labor Statistics places the median salary at about $40,000), but less obvious are the risks to the eyes, which themselves are manifold. First, having the air conditioner or heat blowing into your eyes for any significant stretch of time will easily result in dry eyes. Drivers who wear contact lenses often keep their lenses in all can destroy your eyes, by depriving them of the necessary oxygen. Wearing glasses, for truckers, presents the problem of glare. If, in an effort to avoid prolonged use of the AC, a driver decides to open a window, he faces the almost-unavoidable risk of what eye specialists likely to call “foreign bodies,” (essentially anything from dust to sharp objects) entering the eyes. Online trucker community CDLLife has addressed the problem by identifying special protective eyewear specifically for truck drivers.
1. Construction Worker
The median salary of construction workers is $30,000. According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NOISHA), the majority of eye injuries result from small particles striking or (yikes) scraping against the eye. It goes without saying that any sort of nail or other object penetrating the eye results in permanent loss of vision. Aside from this grisly possibility, other, less obvious things can threaten the eyes of people who work regularly with their hands. These include blood splashes and droplets of mucous from coughing and sneezing. People who work with their hands are especially at risk, because they encounter more of this environmental grit as well as shared germs. The risks don’t end there. Recent research has found that excessive exposure of the eyes to sun can even cause cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye that affects our vision, because it doesn’t adequately allow light to pass through the lens of our eye to reach the retina. So if you’re a construction labourer, and, heaven forbid, you notice any signs of cataracts, they are not necessarily attributable to aging.