As an optometrist, it is my responsibility to ensure that your eyes receive the utmost care and attention. Today, I bring to your attention a recent and alarming discovery related to contact lenses—a topic that concerns millions of people worldwide. It has come to light that certain brands and types of contact lenses may contain "toxic" forever chemicals, posing potential risks to your eye health and to our environment. In this blog post, I will delve into the facts surrounding this discovery, explore the brands affected, present scientific evidence, and discuss crucial safety precautions that you should take to safeguard your eyes.
Understanding Forever Chemicals:
Forever chemicals, scientifically known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are a group of human-made substances commonly found in everyday products. PFAS have gained significant attention due to their persistence in the environment and potential adverse effects on human health. These chemicals are resistant to degradation, earning them the nickname "forever chemicals."
Recent Discovery in Contact Lenses:
In a recent study by Mamavation researchers discovered the presence of PFAS compounds in certain contact lens brands. The investigation revealed that these chemicals were used in the manufacturing process and had inadvertently made their way into the final product. While the exact mechanisms of PFAS transfer to contact lenses are still being studied, the potential risks associated with these chemicals cannot be ignored.
The concentration of these PFAS are measured in units called "parts per trillion" (ppt). According to the study, "last summer the EPA issued health advisories in drinking for four common PFAS, ranging from 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt) to 2000 ppt." To compare, the average concentration of the chemicals found in the contact lenses was 100,000,000 parts per trillion (ppt). This is 50,000 times higher concentration than the water. As alarming as this may sound, the exposure to the chemicals in the eyes is not exactly the same as ingesting it through water.
Brands and Types Affected:
All popular contact lens brands (18 brands) submitted into the study were shown to have organic fluorine, which is a common marker indicating the presence of PFAS compounds. Some of the brands identified in the study include Alcon, Acuvue, and CooperVision. These brands are widely used and have a substantial market share.
Effects of PFAS On Your Health:
Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS chemicals may be linked to various health concerns, including liver damage, immune system disruption, hormonal imbalance, and even cancer. While the direct impact of PFAS in contact lenses on eye health is still being investigated, it is prudent to be cautious. It is important to note that the potential risks associated with PFAS exposure in contact lenses are likely to be minimal compared to other sources, such as contaminated water or food. However, any potential risk to eye health should not be overlooked.
In light of this recent discovery, it is crucial to follow certain safety precautions when wearing contact lenses:
Proper Hygiene and Cleaning: Adhere to strict hygiene practices when handling your contact lenses. Wash your hands thoroughly before inserting or removing them. Use recommended lens cleaning solutions and avoid using tap water or saliva.
Consider Alternative Options: If you are concerned about PFAS exposure or have experienced adverse effects from contact lenses in the past, discuss alternative vision correction options with your eye care provider, such as glasses or gas permeable contact lenses.
Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated with the latest scientific research and information regarding contact lens safety. Regularly check the manufacturer's website and stay in touch with your eye care provider for any updates or changes.
While the recent discovery of PFAS compounds in certain contact lenses is concerning, it is essential to maintain perspective and take appropriate safety precautions. People have been wearing these types of soft contact lenses for over 30 years and we simply do not know if it is contributing to a higher amount of health problems. Longer term studies on this should be done.