TAMPA, Florida (WFLA) – A new study is warning contact users against throwing their lenses in drains, saying it’s contributing to water pollution.
Arizona State University researchers found 15 to 20 percent of contact users flush their lenses down the sink or toilet when they’re done with them.
About 45 million people in the United States wear contacts. The study says that amounts to about 1.8 to 3.36 billion lenses flushed a year, or 20 to 23 metric tons of “wastewater-borne plastics.”
Researchers found that contact lenses don’t break down completely in sewer systems after they’re flushed, which causes pollution in oceans, lakes and rivers.
The team behind the study says they hope the information will encourage contact manufacturers to make a change.
“A simple first step would be for manufacturers to provide on product packaging information on how to properly dispose of contact lenses, which is simply by placing them in the trash with other solid waste,” one researcher said.
“A desirable long-term outcome would be to create lenses from polymers that are fine-tuned to be inert during use but labile and degradable when escaping into the environment.”