[vc_row][vc_column][plethora_headinggroup subtitle=”They may harm aquatic life.”]

People Are Flushing Contact Lenses Down the Toilet … And It’s a Huge Problem for the Environment

[/plethora_headinggroup][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Contact lens wearers often dispose of the products by washing them down the drain or flushing them down the toilet — and that’s bad news for the environment, new research suggests.

Contact lenses recovered from treated sewage sludge could harm the environment. Credit: Charles Rolsky

Lenses that are washed down the drain ultimately end up in wastewater treatment plants, according to a team that presented its findings at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. The scientists estimate that anywhere from six to 10 metric tons of plastic lenses end up in wastewater in the U.S. alone each year.

Contacts tend to be denser than water, which means they sink, and this could ultimately pose a threat to aquatic life, especially bottom feeders that may ingest the contacts, according to a press release from the American Chemical Society.

“We found that 15 to 20 percent of contact wearers are flushing the lenses down the sink or toilet,” said Charlie Rolsky, a Ph.D. student who presented the work. “This is a pretty large number, considering roughly 45 million people in the U.S. alone wear contact lenses.”

Rolsky, Rolf Halden, and Varun Kelkar are at the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University.

To help address the fate of contact lenses during treatment, the researchers exposed five polymers found in many manufacturers’ contact lenses to anaerobic and aerobic microorganisms present at wastewater treatment plants for varying times and performed Raman spectroscopy to analyze them.

“We found that there were noticeable changes in the bonds of the contact lenses after long-term treatment with the plant’s microbes,” Kelkar said.

The team concluded that microbes in the wastewater treatment facility actually altered the surface of the contact lenses, weakening the bonds in the plastic polymers.

“When the plastic loses some of its structural strength, it will break down physically,” Kelkar said. “This leads to smaller plastic particles which would ultimately lead to the formation of microplastics.”

Aquatic organisms can mistake microplastics for food and since plastics are indigestible, this dramatically affects the marine animals’ digestive system. The animals are part of a long food chain. Some eventually find their way to the human food supply, which could lead to unwanted human exposures to plastic contaminants and pollutants that stick to the surfaces of the plastics.

The team hopes the industry will take note of the research and, at a minimum, provide a label on the packaging describing how to properly dispose of contact lenses, which is by placing them with other solid waste.

“Ultimately, we hope that manufacturers will conduct more research on how the lenses impact aquatic life and how fast the lenses degrade in a marine environment,”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]



[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Thirty-seven store owners and wholesale distribution companies in Texas have agreed to stop selling “unlawful and potentially dangerous” contact lenses in Texas, according to the state’s attorney general.

Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a press release that his office had secured “Assurances of Voluntary Compliance” from the businesses. The owners have made refunds available to consumers and will pay more than $140,000 in civil penalties and attorneys’ fees.

The attorney general’s office began its investigation in March 2016 after undercover sweeps by the San Antonio Police Department turned up more than two dozen stores selling contact lenses without requiring consumers to provide a prescription, violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Optometry Act, according to the release.

Information provided by retailers led to investigations by the attorney general’s office into the distributors of the contact lenses. Ten companies – located primarily in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas – marketed the lenses to novelty shops, corner stores and gas stations, the release states.

“My office’s contact lens sweep is a reminder to Texans to safeguard their vision by using only contact lenses prescribed for them by a licensed practitioner,” Paxton said. “We will continue to take appropriate action against retailers and businesses that endanger consumers by selling unlawful lenses. We strongly urge anyone who has found retailers selling lenses without a prescription to contact our office.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


Goodrich Optical Logo


Contact us



Visit us anytime

Goodrich Optical, 2450 Delhi Commerce Dr. Holt, MI 48842


Send us an email

info@goodrichoptical.com



Subscribe


Sign up for our newsletter to receive all the latest eye health news as well as offers and discounts from Goodrich Optical.





    Copyright © 2019 all rights reserved.



    Copyright ©2021 all rights reserved