A recently conducted consumer study has found heightened levels of “forever chemicals” in many popular contact lens brands.
All 18 tested contact lenses displayed high concentrations of PFAS.
Experts highlight the existing knowledge gaps regarding the potential consequences.
With new research linking contact lenses to cancer-causing substances, an increasing number of individuals are reconsidering their use among the estimated 45 million Americans who wear them.
The consumer study examined 18 pairs of contact lenses from well-known brands such as Acuvue, Alcon, and Coopervision for a group of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The researchers discovered varying levels of organic fluorine, an indicator of PFAS presence, in all 18 pairs.
The study, organized by the Mamavation website, which specializes in non-toxic product recommendations, subjected the contact lenses to testing in an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified laboratory to determine the amount of PFAS present in the products.
The researchers found that all contact lenses exceeded 100 parts per million (ppm) of organic fluorine, which is approximately 50,000 times higher than the EPA’s highest acceptable level for drinking water.
If you wear contact lenses, which is a common practice for many, it is understandable to have questions and concerns. It is crucial to acknowledge that this information is new, and consequently, there are limited answers available at present. Here’s what we currently know.
How worried should you be about this discovery?
That is the crucial question. “It is entirely uncertain,” states Scott Belcher, Ph.D., a professor specializing in toxicology and environmental health sciences at North Carolina State University and a scientific advisor for the study. “This study is the first to provide a real indication in this direction.”
Belcher explains that scientists have been aware of the use of fluoropolymers in contact lenses for decades but notes that these substances are not extensively regulated in terms of toxicology assessments. Belcher, who occasionally wears contact lenses himself, acknowledges the concern raised by the findings. He adds, “However, we are currently unable to quantify that concern.”
Bavand Youssefzadeh, O.D., an ophthalmologist in Huntington Beach, California, agrees. He states, “Fluoropolymers are present in many things, and we are becoming increasingly aware of that fact. At this stage, it is definitely something to consider, but there is currently no evidence regarding the specific harms. Could this lead to dry eyes and eye allergies? We do not know.”
It is important to note that only the brands Acuvue, Alcon, and Coopervision were tested. The findings do not establish whether other brands also contain PFAS, but Belcher suggests that it is “certainly possible.”
PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” encompass a broad range of synthetic substances that have been utilized in consumer products since the 1950s, as noted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). PFAS serve various purposes, such as preventing food from sticking to cookware, safeguarding carpets against stains, and even aiding in the production of firefighting foam.
However, these chemicals do not easily break down in the environment, and several of them have been linked to numerous severe health conditions, including cancer, when individuals are exposed to them over time, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Research has also associated PFAS with other health conditions such as hormone disruption, immune system dysfunction, and reproductive issues.
Over time, PFAS can accumulate in the body, with individuals typically taking in more PFAS than they excrete, according to the NIH. Last year, the EPA revised its guidelines after determining that PFAS pose greater risks to human health than previously believed, even at lower levels of exposure.
Youssefzadeh advises against immediately discontinuing the use of contact lenses, stating, “I wouldn’t stop using my contacts just yet.” Belcher also does not recommend discarding your contact lenses, but emphasizes the importance of being aware of PFAS exposure. He suggests discussing the issue with your ophthalmologist to ensure they are informed about the additional concern.
Belcher offers similar advice for those worried about the contents of their contact lenses as he does for plastics in general. He suggests considering alternatives if you have concerns, such as wearing glasses or switching to a different brand that meets your comfort level and the standards set by your ophthalmologist.
Youssefzadeh explains that your eye doctor can guide you through various options, including hard contact lenses, Lasik surgery, or glasses.
It is important to note that PFAS exposure extends beyond contact lenses. PFAS can be found in plastic containers, nonstick pans, personal care products, and more. A 2015 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered PFAS in the blood of 97% of Americans, while a 2019 study found PFAS in the blood of 98% of Americans.
Belcher emphasizes that there is still much to learn about PFAS and their association with contact lenses. He states, “This is undoubtedly a new area where uncertainties exist regarding potential adverse effects and how they balance against the benefits. It’s challenging at present. However, it’s a positive development that consumers are becoming aware. If there are concerns, that, in my opinion, is a step in the right direction.”
If you believe you have been affected by the presence of PFAS in contact lenses and wish to explore legal options, you may consider contacting Parker Waichman LLP. They are a law firm that specializes in handling various cases, including product liability and consumer protection issues.
To inquire about filing claims related to this matter, you can reach Parker Waichman LLP at their toll-free number: 1-800-YOU-LAWYER (1-800-968-5299). Their team of legal professionals can provide you with guidance and information regarding your potential case.
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