Glassblower's cataract

Glassblower's cataracts are a form of cataract. They are formed by many years or decades of exposure to infrared radiation while working in the occupation of glass blowing, or working close to hot or molten metals such with metal foundry workers[1] or blacksmiths. Glassblower's cataracts are due to chronic exposure to infrared radiation emitted due to heating of glass or molten metal. The infrared radiation is absorbed by the iris and lens of the eye. This causes cataracts after decades of exposure. [2] This condition may be prevented by wearing protective glasses while practicing these occupations.


Glassblowers tend to work with very high-temperature objects and equipment, which emit a great deal of infrared radiation through black-body radiation. The ocular lens, like all matter, has the capacity to store incident photon energy by resonance absorption. Absorption of infrared photons increases vibration of molecules, which is observed as increased temperature. Large important biomolecules such as proteins tend to lose their space structure when vibrating, known as denaturation. The rate of protein denaturation is temperature dependent as described by the Arrhenius equation. Damage to biological tissue owing to the high rate of vibration damage is called thermal damage.[3]


  1. Roberts, B. H. (1921). "A Series of Cases of "glassblowers' Cataract" Occurring in Chainmakers". The British Journal of Ophthalmology. 5 (5): 210–212. doi:10.1136/bjo.5.5.210. PMC 512590. PMID 18168103.
  2. Geddes, LA; Roeder, RA (2006). Handbook of Electrical Hazards and Accidents (2nd ed.). Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company. p. 465. ISBN 978-0913875445.
  3. Söderberg, P G; Talebizadeh, N; Yu, Z; Galichanin, K (2016-01-15). "Does infrared or ultraviolet light damage the lens?". Eye. 30 (2): 241–246. doi:10.1038/eye.2015.266. PMC 4763141. PMID 26768915.
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