How flushed contact lenses add to microplastic pollution in waterways

  • How flushed contact lenses add to microplastic pollution in waterways

How flushed contact lenses add to microplastic pollution in waterways

And those lenses later end up contributing to pollution in oceans, lakes and rivers.

Lenses, usually discarded after about a month or sometimes just a day's use, often end up in wastewater treatment plants.

A new study done by researchers out of Arizona State University released this weekend says many users dispose of their old contact lenses by flushing them, instead of placing them in trash cans.

Mr Kelkar said: 'When the plastic loses some of its structural strength, it will break down physically. By tallying this detritus and studying how it persists in this environment, the study provides the first estimate of the potential burden of these tiny plastics, or microplastics. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 45 million Americans wear contact lenses.

They found 15-20% of US users simply flick these fiddly lenses down the drain via the bathroom sink or toilet.

He added: 'This is a pretty large number, considering roughly 45 million people in the United States alone wear contact lenses'. 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.

Wastewater treatment facilities in the US 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.

To figure out if the lenses biodegrade, the researchers subjected five of the polymers commonly used in contact lenses to anaerobic and aerobic microorganisms typically found in wastewater plants, for different amounts of time.

Graduate research assistant Varun Kelkar said: 'We found there were noticeable changes in the bonds of the contact lenses after long term treatment with the plant's microbes'.

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

Americans use about 14 billion contact lenses every year, resulting in an estimated 50,000 pounds winding up in sinks and toilets. Fragmented contact lenses also may pass through the wastewater-treatment plant to enter surface waters as microplastics contained in reclaimed water. Well, now contact lens manufacturers don't include any information on the packaging about how to dispose of the used product. Some eventually find their way to the human food supply, which could lead to unwanted human exposures to plastic contaminants and pollutants that stick to the surfaces of the plastics. While the researchers also want contact manufacturers to find a way for consumers to easily recycle their products, for now, they recommend throwing them out with solid waste - never send them down the toilet or sink.

"Ultimately, we hope that manufacturers will conduct more research on how the lenses impact aquatic life and how fast the lenses degrade in a marine environment". Reporters may check-in at the press center, Room 102 A, or watch live on YouTube

The researchers broke the study into three core parts.