ASU scientists report 1st nationwide study showing environmental costs of lenses

Every year, about 45 million Americans rely on contact lenses to see the world more clearly. This $2.7 billion U.S. market has made contact lenses more comfortable and disposable. Every day, these plastic lenses are tossed away by consumers in various ways, perhaps without much thought to their ultimate environmental fate.

Now, Arizona State University scientists are reporting the first nationwide study that shows consumers, by discarding used lenses down the drain, may be unknowingly contributing to plastic pollution.

The ASU research team is presenting their results today at the 256th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), held in Boston from August 19–23.

The inspiration for this work first began from personal experience.

“I had worn glasses and contact lenses for most of my adult life,” said Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Environmental Health Engineering at ASU. “But I started to wonder, has anyone done research on what happens to these plastic lenses after their useful lifespan is over?”

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