Someone tested contact lenses in the US and found cancer-causing 'forever chemicals' in them

Adhya Moona
Adhya MoonaMay 15, 2023 | 15:42

Someone tested contact lenses in the US and found cancer-causing 'forever chemicals' in them

Research suggests that contact lenses of 18 popular brands from US have high levels of forever chemicals. Photo: Getty Images

A new study has revealed that many soft contact lenses made in the United States are made up of toxic, cancer-causing 'forever chemicals'. After testing 18 popular kinds contact lenses in the country, researchers found out that the contact lenses contained high levels of fluoropolymers, a marker of PFAS.

PFAS are a class of about 14,000 chemicals used to make consumer products resist water, stains and heat. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, and they are linked to cancer, fetal complications, liver disease, kidney disease, autoimmune disorders and other serious health issues, reported The Guardian.


What did the study reveal?

  •  The research was commissioned by the Mamavation and Environmental Health News public health blogs.
  • The study revealed that the soft contact lenses contained 'forever chemicals', which are considered extremely dangerous, toxic and cancer-causing.
  • What are forever chemicals? Forever chemicals include per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) and these chemicals are called "forever chemicals" because they do not break down in our bodies nor in the environment. PFAS include a class of 14,000 chemicals.
  • Organic flourine was found in lenses by brands such as Coopervision, Acuvue, and Alcon. And the amount of organic flourine that was found in these was between 105 parts per million (ppm) to 20,700ppm.
  • All the lenses that were tested in this research, the levels of the chemicals in those exceeded the 100 ppm, which is "50,000 times more than the highest level deemed safe in drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."

Why is this chemical used in making contact lenses?

Scott Belcher, a North Carolina State University researcher and scientific adviser on the contact lens testing told The Guardian,  Fluoropolymer PFAS are used in the making of soft, disposable lenses because “they have the properties that your eyes want”. He went to add, "It wants to get oxygen and doesn’t want bacteria to grow like crazy, and it wants lenses to be smooth and comfortable.”

Health effects of PFAS exposure to the eyes?


There is some unclarity in terms of what are the health effects of this level of PFAS exposure on the eyes. Also, there is no research on how the eyes absorb the chemicals through the contact lenses.

Why are 'forever chemicals' dangerous?

  • Where are PFAS used: PFAS are used in making consumer, everyday products including food packaging, toilet paper, clothing, cosmetics, furniture and more. They are used in these everyday goods and products because these chemicals make the item heat, and grease water-resistant.
  • PFAS are dangerous chemicals for our health: They are linked with health issues such as fetal complications, cancer, autoimmune disorders, liver and kidney diseases.
  • According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, consumption of PFAS can lead an increase in cholesterol levels, increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer, changes in liver enzymes.

Lenses with highest amounts of organic fluorine

1. Alcon Air Optix (No Hydraglide) for Astigmatism (20,000ppm)
2. Alcon Air Optix Colors with Smartshield Technology (20,700ppm)
3. Alcon Total30 Contact Lenses for Daily Wear (20,400ppm)

Lenses with lowest amounts of organic fluorine

1. Acuvue Oasys with Hydraclear Plus with UV Blocking (113ppm)
2. Alcon Dailies Total One-Day Water Gradient for Astigmatism (106ppm)

Will you be mindful of which brand's contact lenses you buy?

Last updated: May 15, 2023 | 15:42
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