Here's Why You Should Never Flush Your Contact Lenses Down The Toilet

Maricruz Casares
Agosto 21, 2018

Contact lenses are instead frequently made with a combination of poly (methylmethacrylate), silicones and fluoropolymers to create a softer material that allows oxygen to pass through the lens to the eye.

"We found 19 per cent of contact wearers are flushing the lenses down the sink or toilet".

Wastewater treatment facilities in the USA simply don't do a good enough job of filtering out the tons of contact lenses that are disposed of through the sewer system, according to new research presented Sunday at the American Chemical Society's meeting in Boston.

For this study the team looked at 139 contact lens users to determine how they disposed of their lenses.

The full findings were discussed in the American Chemical Society 256th National Meeting.

Halden assures contact lens users that they should not stop wearing lenses because of this study.

"We found that 15 to 20 percent of contact wearers are flushing the lenses down the sink or toilet", says Charlie Rolsky, a Ph.D. student who is presenting the research.

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It turns out the best thing you can do is to throw them in the bin alongside other household waste, according to the report authors. This form of plastic does not dissolve when they reach the waste water treatment plants, they explain. And daily disposables, rather than the ones that people wear for a week or more, are one of the fastest-growing parts of the contact-lens market and more convenient and safe. The latter scenario is not harmless, says Rolf Halden, director of ASU's Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering and one of the study's authors.

To make matters worse, because contact lenses are typically denser than water, they can sink into aquatic zones and be eaten by marine life thriving down there, which can potentially poison them.

They found that, even after extended periods of time, the lenses remained intact. The plastic as a microplastic can also enter waterways through runoff where they can again enter the foodchain as microplastic is often mistaken by aquatic creatures as food. These animals belong to a long food chain.

The microplastics formed by contact lenses could also be making a mark on land. Some, in the end, find their way to the human food supply, which could result in undesirable human exposures to plastic contaminants and pollutants that adhere to the surfaces of the plastics. However, its behavior in wastewater and wastewater treatment plants was undocumented. "We found that there were noticeable changes in the bonds of the contact lenses after long-term treatment with the plant's microbes", says Kelkar.

By calling attention to the problem, the team hope lens manufacturers will take note and, at the very least, provide a label on the packaging describing how to properly dispose of them with other solid waste.

"It sounds like a very small problem, because the lenses themselves are tiny, but they come by the billions", Halden said.

According to the researchers, these materials are not routinely screened for environmental monitoring studies, which is why pollution from contact lenses has avoided detection until now.

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