Color vision can be a very complex topic to discuss because of the various deficiencies that occur. Generally, about 8% of males and 0.5% of females suffer from color deficiencies and the majority of problems lie with red and green colors.   Who is to blame?  Without getting into a lesson on genetics, if a male has a red-green (R-G) deficiency it is because his mother was either color deficient or a carrier of the trait. A father who is has this problem cannot pass it onto his son.  It is rarer for women to have this trait because her father would have this problem and her mother would either have it as well or be a carrier of the trait.

Confused? Bored? Sorry, let’s get into something more interesting about red-green color deficiencies.

“My son couldn’t see the numbers in your book; does that mean he can’t see any colors at all?”  No, red-green deficiencies still perceive color, but depending on how severe or deep the problem is the spectrum can vary. The term color blindness is misleading because to see no colors at all, achromatopsia, is extremely rare and quite debilitating. A R-G color deficient person will see different variations of red-green colors and hues.  These individuals have been taught that grass is green, stop signs, fire trucks and fire hydrants are red, so they can associate similar colors to those standards.  An early life problem is when a teacher asks students to reach for their red crayon to color a stop sign or a barn.  The maroon, red-orange, red, magenta, and pink crayons may all look quite similar. Later in life, trying to distinguish between results on a litmus paper in chemistry class will be difficult to decipher as well as viewing colored maps, picking out matching clothing and distinguishing between different levels of cooked meat.

A color deficient person may have difficulties with many professions including; photographer, artist, commercial aircraft pilots, electricians, and various designer and engineers professions.  Air Force pilots, different levels of military and law enforcement, firefighters and train engineers have strict color vision requirements for positions.

Celebrities with color deficiencies include former President Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Matt Laurer, Paul Newman, Jack Nicklaus and Bing Crosby.  The stage set of White Christmas may have looked a bit different to Bing.

This Fourth of July, as you and your family are sitting around hundreds if not thousands of people watching fireworks displays, think that 8% of men around you will not experience the fireworks display as you will.  They will still see the color fireworks explode in the air, but those bright greens and reds will appear more washed out to them.

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