Contact lenses, a popular choice for vision correction, have been found to contain compounds that are linked to serious health issues, according to a recent study. The research, conducted at an Environmental Protection Agency-certified lab, revealed that many soft contact lenses in the United States contain high levels of organic fluorine, a marker of per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS, commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” are a group of man-made chemicals known for their persistence in the environment and the human body.
The study, commissioned by Mamavation and Environmental Health News public health blogs, tested 18 popular types of contact lenses and found alarming levels of organic fluorine in each sample. The concentration of PFAS exceeded 100 parts per million (ppm) in all tested lenses, which is equivalent to 100 million parts per trillion (ppt). To put this into perspective, it is 50,000 times higher than the highest level considered safe for drinking water by the EPA.
PFAS are associated with various health risks, including cancer, fetal complications, liver disease, kidney disease, thyroid disease, fertility problems, autoimmune disorders, and more. These chemicals are notorious for their resistance to breaking down, leading to their accumulation in the environment and the human body over time.
Scott Belcher, a scientific adviser and researcher at North Carolina State University, described the tested lenses as “almost pure PFAS.” He emphasized that consumers have limited options to protect themselves, suggesting that wearing glasses instead of contact lenses could be a safer alternative. However, he also encouraged individuals to consult with their healthcare providers to explore other potential options.
Contact lenses are thin prosthetic devices placed directly on the surface of the eyes, commonly used by over 150 million people worldwide. They serve various purposes, such as vision correction, cosmetic enhancement, and therapeutic reasons. In 2010, the global market for contact lenses was valued at $6.1 billion, with the US soft lens market accounting for $2.1 billion. Market analysts projected that the global contact lens market would reach $11.7 billion by 2015.
It is crucial for contact lens wearers to be aware of the potential health risks associated with PFAS-contaminated lenses. By prioritizing their well-being, individuals can make informed decisions and discuss alternative options with their eye care professionals. Further research and regulation are necessary to address the presence of “forever chemicals” in contact lenses and safeguard public health.