Hey there, fellow parents! I stumbled upon some fascinating research that I just had to share with you all. It turns out that our trusty contact lenses might not be as innocent as they seem. A recent study conducted by Mamavation sent 18 different soft contact lenses to an EPA-certified lab for testing. The objective? To check if those pesky PFAS “forever chemicals ” are present in contact Lenses. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of this eye-opening study.
Now, let me fill you in on PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). These chemicals are known for their handy stain-resistant, oil-resistant, and water-resistant properties. You’ll find PFAS in various consumer products and building materials. But here’s the kicker—they’re also associated with some not-so-great health effects.
Indeed, the potential consequences associated with PFAS exposure are extensive and encompass various health concerns. These include weakened immune function, heightened vulnerability to allergies and asthma in children, elevated cholesterol levels, metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes, cardiovascular ailments, fertility issues, increased susceptibility to certain types of cancer, and disruption of thyroid function. Undoubtedly, the implications of PFAS exposure give rise to a comprehensive and far-reaching array of health risks.
Now, you might be wondering how exposure to PFAS through our eyeballs can be problematic. While we don’t have a solid grasp on the extent of PFAS leaching into our bodies via eye contact, studies have shown that dermal exposure to PFAS can happen. Given the sensitivity of our eyes and the ubiquity of PFAS in various sources, it is prudent to take measures to minimize exposure. Specifically, we should be cognizant of the potential presence of PFAS in our contact lenses.
Now, here’s where things get interesting. Improperly disposing of contact lenses can wreak havoc on the environment. Can you guess how many contact lenses end up in landfills each year in the US? Brace yourself—it’s around 2.5 billion lenses, weighing a whopping 44,000 pounds! Unfortunately, many people flush them down the toilet or let them slip into the sink, which leads to their entry into wastewater treatment plants. And let me tell you, these tiny transparent lenses pose a big challenge when it comes to effective removal during wastewater treatment processes. As a result, approximately 6 to 10 metric tons of plastic lenses end up in US wastewater every year. Yikes!
Now, shifting our focus, let’s explore the process by which PFAS finds its way into contact lenses. Generally, contact lenses are manufactured using a blend of poly(methylmethacrylate), silicones, and fluoropolymers. Furthermore, it is important to note that these fluoropolymers, which contain PFAS, play a crucial role in providing the desired softness to the lens material while improving its oxygen permeability. The detection of organic fluorine, serving as an indicator of PFAS, in contact lenses suggests that different brands and types of lenses incorporate diverse amounts of fluoropolymers into their composition.
So, what were the findings of the study? Brace yourselves, parents. The lab detected indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” in all 18 contact lens products tested. The levels of organic fluorine, which serves as an indicator of PFAS, ranged from 105 to a staggering 20,700 parts per million (ppm). Popular brands like Acuvue, Alcon, and Coopervision all showed signs of PFAS, although at different levels. In fact, 22% of the contact lenses had organic fluorine levels exceeding 18,000 ppm, while 44% exceeded 4,000 ppm.
Now, let’s get down to the Naughty and Better Lists, which highlight the contact lenses that were tested and their organic fluorine levels. Remember, the Naughty List includes those lenses with 1,000 ppm or more of organic fluorine, while the Better List falls between 200 ppm and 1,000 ppm.
The Naughty List:
- Acuvue Oasys with HydraLuxe 1-Day — 6,096 ppm organic fluorine
- Acuvue Vita Astigmatism Senofilcon C Brand Contact Lenses — 5,537 ppm organic fluorine
- Alcon Air OPTIX (No Hydraglide) Soft Contact Lenses for Astigmatism — 20,000 ppm organic fluorine
- Alcon AIR OPTIX Colors Contact Lenses with Smartshield Technology — 20,700 ppm organic fluorine
- Alcon Dailies Colors One-Day Contact Lenses — 18,400 ppm organic fluorine
- Alcon Total 30 Contact Lenses for Daily Wear — 20,400 ppm organic fluorine
- Coopervision Biofinity Toric Contact Lenses — 4,751 ppm organic fluorine
- Coopervision Comfilcon A Multifocal Tinted Soft Contact Lenses — 5,613 ppm organic fluorine
The Better List:
- Alcon Dailies TOTAL 1 One-Day Contact Lenses Water Gradient — 625 ppm organic fluorine
- Alcon MULTIFOCAL Dailies AquaComfort Plus One-Day Contact Lenses — 346 ppm organic fluorine
- Alcon Precision 1 One-Day Contact Lenses with SmartSurface Technology — 302 ppm organic fluorine
- Alcon TORIC Dailies AquaComfort Plus One-Day Contact Lenses — 914 ppm organic fluorine
Moreover, notable scientists and experts specializing in environmental health are raising alarm regarding the existence of organic fluorine in all examined soft contact lens products. Their concerns revolve around the absence of comprehensive safety studies conducted on these products and the potential hazards linked to exposure to PFAS. So, it’s crucial for us to have discussions with our eye care professionals and make informed decisions about our eye care. After all, our eyes and our children’s eyes deserve the best, right?
To wrap it up, this study has shed light on the presence of PFAS “forever chemicals” in our eye contact. While further research is needed to fully understand the risks, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Furthermore, we can delve into discussions about the potential drawbacks of fluoropolymers and weigh the benefits of alternative chemistries. Additionally, we should inquire about the latest advancements in contact lens materials and inquire about their suitability for individuals with specific eye conditions. Moreover, it is essential to address any concerns or queries we may have regarding the long-term effects of different materials on eye health. Lastly, we can actively participate in conversations about research and development efforts aimed at improving the comfort and durability of contact lenses while prioritizing safety.
- “Mamavation’s Lab Finds Indications of PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Inside 100% of Eye Contacts Tested.” Mamavation, 2023, www.mamavation.com/health/pfas-contact-lenses.html.
- Fenton, Suzanne E et al. “Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance Toxicity and Human Health Review: Current State of Knowledge and Strategies for Informing Future Research.” Environmental toxicology and chemistry vol. 40,3 (2021): 606-630. doi:10.1002/etc.4890
- ATSDR Pfas Clinical Guidance – Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease …, www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/docs/clinical-guidance-12-20-2019.pdf.
- “Read ‘Guidance on PFAS Exposure, Testing, and Clinical Follow-up’ at Nap.Edu.” 3 Potential Health Effects of PFAS | Guidance on PFAS Exposure, Testing, and Clinical Follow-Up |The National Academies Press, nap.nationalacademies.org/read/26156/chapter/5.
- Clspectrum.Com, www.clspectrum.com/issues/2019/august-2019/the-environmental-impact-of-contact-lens-w