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Cancer-Causing ‘Forever Chemicals’ Found in Many Kinds of Contact Lenses, Study Finds


Many soft contact lenses in the United States are made of compounds that are linked to numerous severe health issues, new research shows.

A study conducted at an Environmental Protection Agency-certified lab tested 18 popular kinds of contact lenses and found extremely high levels of organic fluorine, a marker of PFAS, in each.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) are a group of about 14,000 man-made chemicals that are “very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time.”

PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals” by the NIH, can last for years without breaking down and are linked to cancer, fetal complications, liver disease, kidney disease, thyroid disease, fertility problems, autoimmune disorders and other serious health issues.

Contact Lenses

During the lab testing, which was commissioned by Mamavation and Environmental Health News public health blogs, researchers found that all of the tested contact lenses exceeded 100 parts per million (ppm) of organic fluorine, which is equivalent to 100 million ppt, or 50,000 times more than the highest level deemed safe in drinking water by the EPA.

“You could consider [the lenses] almost pure PFAS,” Scott Belcher, a North Carolina State University researcher and scientific adviser of the lab testing, told The Guardian.

He told the outlet that there is little that consumers can do to protect themselves beyond wearing glasses instead of contact lenses and urges people to speak to their providers if there are concerns.


“There are alternatives that may have some downsides and upsides, but that’s a discussion to have with your doctor,” Belcher said.

Contact lenses are thin lenses placed directly on the surface of the eyes. Contact lenses are ocular prosthetic devices used by over 150 million people worldwide and they can be worn to correct vision or for cosmetic or therapeutic reasons.

In 2010, the worldwide market for contact lenses was estimated at $6.1 billion, while the US soft lens market was estimated at $2.1 billion. Multiple analysts estimated that the global market for contact lenses would reach $11.7 billion by 2015.

As of 2010, the average age of contact lens wearers globally was 31 years old, and two-thirds of wearers were female.


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