What are PFAS? (Forever Chemicals)

May 23, 2023 | General

You may have heard a story about a study that has found perfluoroalkyl substances also known as PFAS in soft contact lenses.

The study sent 18 different popular soft contact lenses to an EPA-certified lab to test for PFAS and found extremely high levels of organic fluorine, a marker for PFAS. PFAS are a class of about 14,000 chemicals. They are typically used to make consumer products resist water, stains, and heat, and can be found in thousands of products such as dental floss, cosmetics, sunscreen, textiles, sanitary products, and toilet paper. They do not naturally break down and are therefore known as ‘forever chemicals.’ In contact lenses, PFAS are used to soften the lenses and help oxygen pass through.

Why does this concern me?

Now you may be concerned since you use soft contact lenses, we will have a look at the evidence at this point in time. There are currently no studies on whether the eyes absorb PFAS from contact lenses. In 2017 an Expert Health panel was established to advise the Australian government on the available evidence, including key international reports and views from the public and other stakeholders.

This panel concluded ‘there is mostly limited, or in some cases no evidence, that human exposure to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is linked with human disease. Importantly, the panel concluded there is no current evidence that suggests an increase in overall cancer risk’.

It was also concluded that much of the evidence available was weak and inconsistent and that decisions to minimise exposure to PFAS should be largely based on their known ability to absorb and accumulate in the body.

Most people have very low levels of PFAS in their body. Australia’s Optometry Chief Clinical officer Luke Arundel said: ‘There are currently no studies on whether the eyes absorb PFAS from contact lenses.

Contact lenses are classified as medical devices and are highly regulated in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. They have been on hundreds of thousands of eyes for many decades (equating to over a billion years of wearing experience) and have been a very safe mode of optical correction over these years. We will continue to keep up to date on the latest research and results and inform you about it.

If you are concerned about this particular study or your eye health please do not hesitate to come in and see us or your local optometrist.


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