Study show contact lenses not environment-friendly

This is a good thing when it comes to contact lenses, because, he said, you don't want them to degrade in the user's eye, which could impair vision or become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Next up on the environment agenda is contact lenses - and why you shouldn't flush them down the toilet.

The researchers also tested how lenses fared when treated with microorganisms that are used at wastewater treatment facilities to break down biological waste.

The researchers started by conducting an anonymous online survey 400 people who do or don't wear contact lenses. "This leads to smaller plastic particles, which ultimately will lead to the formation of microplastics", environmental engineer Varun Kelkar of Arizona State University explained. But according to a new research, they can contribute to microplastic pollution when not properly discarded.

These differences make it hard to process contact lenses in wastewater plants.

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

Speaking to Mail Online, Rolsky said: 'We found that 15-20% of contact-lens wearers are flushing the lenses down the sink or toilet.

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Almost 45 million Americans use soft disposable contact lenses and after use flush them down the toilet. "In the bathroom, they can get lost in the sink or go down the toilet".

They found that, even after extended periods of time, the lenses remained intact. 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, Halden says.

Aquatic organisms can mistake those microplastics for food and since plastics are indigestible, this dramatically affects the marine animals' digestive system. This leads to smaller plastic particles forming microplastics. "So I would be concerned that there would be more of an impact with these microplastics than with the other materials due to their ability to absorb various toxins in the environment, like pesticides and herbicides, and really hyper-concentrate these chemicals and move them into the food chain and up the food chain". Past studies have shown how easy it is for plastics to make their way from the oceans to our dinner tables inside of fish which consume plastics accidentally. This creates a clear pathway where macro-and microplastics from contact lenses can enter land ecosystems.

These differences make processing contact lenses in wastewater plants a challenge. 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.

The researchers say they would like the contact lens industry to address this problem by placing labels on their packaging that would describe the proper way to dispose of contact lenses: by placing them into the garbage. That's especially risky for bottom-feeding fish, who mistake the lenses for food.

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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