Science and Tech


Your contact lenses may contain cancer-causing 'forever chemicals'

A new study examined 18 popular contact lens products for toxic chemicals — and the results were alarming.
Person applying a contact lens
Posted at 2:27 PM, May 22, 2023

Contact lenses showed evidence of cancer-causing PFAS, or "forever chemicals," according to a new study commissioned by Mamavation and Environmental Health News. 

The study, conducted in an Environmental Protection Agency-certified lab, tested 18 different contact lenses for indications of PFAS — which the EPA describes as "widely used, long lasting chemicals," whose components "break down very slowly over time." The toxic chemicals pose risks to human health and the environment. 

The lab results were alarming: 100% of the popular contact lens products that were tested showed signs of organic fluorine, which is a marker for PFAS.

"The presumption that these organic fluorine levels measured in contact lenses are safe is laughable," Chief Scientist for Environmental Health Sciences Pete Myers said in Mamavation's report.

While comparing thresholds of PFAS in drinking water to concentrations in contact lenses isn't exactly apples-to-apples, Myers noted that all of the contact lenses tested exceeded levels "50,000 times higher than the highest level deemed safe in drinking water by the EPA."

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It is not yet clear how much of the PFAS actually leach into the eyeball from the contact lenses, or if the PFAS break down within the eye. However, the study says it has found "plenty instances of PFAS exposure in drinking water being linked to eye diseases."

Because the eye is one of the most sensitive areas of the human body, researchers suggest contact-wearers practice good hygiene to avoid eye infections such as washing hands, removing the lenses for sleep, and never reusing eye contact solution.

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