People are constantly amazed when I explain how toxic our environment is. The world we live in has changed significantly over the past 100 years, exposing us to millions of toxic substances. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t keep up with trying to clear all these chemicals, with the result that our health is suffering. Many of the chemicals used affect fertility and hormones. Here are a few more examples of how seemingly innocuous items may be causing you harm.
How Many Forever Chemicals Are in Your Contact Lenses? Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola * Fact Checked June 21, 2023
- Mamavation, in partnership with Environmental Health News, had 18 different brands of contact lenses tested for organic fluorine, a marker for PFAS
- All the contact lenses tested positive for fluorine, at levels ranging from 105 to 20,700 parts per million (ppm)
- While 44% of the contact lenses tested contained fluorine at a level over 4,000 ppm, 22% contained more than 18,000 ppm
- A large population-based study conducted in China found exposure to PFAS increased the risk of visual impairment
- PFAS is likely used in contact lenses to make them soft and allow oxygen to flow through, but the chemicals are linked to reproductive and developmental problems, cancer, liver disease and more
Toxic polyfluoroalkyl or perfluoroalkyl chemicals, collectively known as PFAS, may be lurking in your contact lenses. The compounds, which have been dubbed “forever chemicals” because they break down so slowly, have been linked to reproductive and developmental problems, cancer, obesity, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and more.
PFAS is known for making surfaces slippery, hence their widespread use in nonstick cookware. They’re also found in many other consumer products, however, including food takeout containers, food packaging, stain- and grease-resistant products, furniture and personal care products. Many people are unaware these chemicals are in products they use daily, including contact lenses, which may spend up to 16 hours next to your eye each day.
PFAS Exposure Linked to Significant Health Risks
If your contact lenses contain PFAS, you may want to reconsider using them. Exposure to high levels of PFAS is also known to affect the immune system, and evidence from both human and animal studies shows that such exposure may reduce your resistance to infectious disease. The EPA also acknowledges that PFAS exposure is harmful and states that peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown exposure to PFAS may cause:
- Reproductive effects such as decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women
- Developmental effects or delays in children, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations or behavioral changes
- Increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney and testicular cancers
- Reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections, including reduced vaccine response
- Interference with the body’s natural hormones
- Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity
- Liver disease is another known risk.
PFAS are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that accumulate in body tissues, such as the liver, and are known to accelerate metabolic changes that lead to fatty liver.
How Else Can You Be Exposed to PFAS?
In addition to contact lenses, PFAS can be found in water, soil, air and food. It’s in your home, including in household products like stain- and water-repellant fabrics, cleaning products, nonstick cookware and paint — and likely in your drinking water.
Fast food containers and wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes and candy wrappers are also common PFAS sources. One study released by consumer watchdog groups Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Toxic-Free Future even revealed high levels of fluorine in five of 17 paper products that come in contact with food at Whole Foods Market — four of which were containers in the salad and hot food bar.
Testing by Mamavation has also found evidence of PFAS in pasta and tomato sauces, sports bras, tampons and dental floss. Since the chemicals migrate into food and contaminate compost piles and landfills after disposal, the use of PFAS leads to unnecessary long-term exposure to harmful chemicals for humans, wildlife and the
environment, especially since PFAS-free packaging options are widely available.
Tips for Avoiding PFAS
PFAS has no taste or smell but is widespread in the environment and in consumer products. You’ll want to filter your drinking water to avoid this common route of exposure. Also avoid products that are stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick, as most contain PFAS.
Regarding contact lenses, you can avoid PFAS exposure by using glasses instead. To further reduce your exposure, the Environmental Working Group recommends avoiding:
- Items that have been pretreated with stain repellants and opt out of such treatments when buying new furniture and carpets.
- Water- and/or stain-repellant clothing. One tipoff is when an item made with artificial fibers is described as “breathable.” These are typically treated with PTFE.
- Items treated with flame retardant chemicals, which includes a wide variety of baby items, padded furniture, mattresses and pillows. Instead, opt for naturally less flammable materials such as leather, wool and cotton.
- Fast food and carry out foods, as the wrappers are typically treated with PFAS.
- Microwave popcorn. PFAS may not only be present in the inner coating of the bag, it also may migrate to the oil from the packaging during heating. Instead, use “old-fashioned” stovetop popcorn.
- Nonstick cookware and other treated kitchen utensils. Healthier options include ceramic and enameled cast iron cookware, both of which are durable, easy to clean and completely inert, which means they won’t release any harmful chemicals into your home. A newer type of nonstick cookware called Duralon uses a nonfluoridated nylon polymer for its nonstick coating. While this appears to be safe, your safest bet is still
ceramic and enameled cast iron.
- Oral-B Glide floss and any other personal care products containing PTFE or “fluoro” or “perfluoro” ingredients.
Sources and References
1,21 EWG January 17, 2023
2 Environ Health Perspect 123:A107–A111, Madrid Statement
3 Environmental Health Perspectives April 27, 2022
4 Environmental Health Perspectives February 14, 2022
5,7,17,19,20 Mamavation, Indications of PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Contact Lenses — Report, April 18, 2023
6,8,9,13 The Guardian May 9, 2023
10,14,29 Environmental Health Perspectives April 26, 2023
11 Environ. Sci. Technol. 2020, 54, 20, 12820–12828
12 Food and Chemical Toxicology February 2020, Volume 136
15,16 Environment International April 2020, Volume 137
18 Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Nov; 115(11): 1596–1602
22 Politico May 14, 2018
23 ATSDR, What are the health effects of PFAS?
24,27 U.S. EPA, Our Current Understanding of the Human health and Environmental Risks of PFAS
25 Environmental Health Perspectives April 27, 2022, Intro
26 Environmental Science and Technology Letters August 9, 2016
28 Eater December 11, 2018
30 EWG’s Guide to Avoiding PFCS (PDF)