Lenses Contribute To Ocean Pollution
The COAST IS CLEAR blog has been hammering home the point that single-used plastic items are fouling up our oceans and coastlines. We’ve often targeted the big three offenders – straws, shopping bags and water bottles.
Until now, we’ve totally overlooked a less-auspicious but just as deadly form of disposable plastic – contact lenses!
According to a recent TIME report, millions of contact lenses may be ending up in our water supplies annually.
Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University, and postdoctoral student Charlie Rolsky were surprised when they looked into just how many of the estimated 45 million wearers of contact lenses in the U.S. were properly disposing of their eyewear.
Survey says … as many as 1-in-5 wearers have flushed their contacts down a sink or toilet.
“That result suggests that a significant number of lenses are ending up in waste-water treatment plants — a conclusion they confirmed after visiting treatment plants and spying lenses in the water,” Jamie Ducharme writes.
Halden and Rolsky discovered the disposed lenses degraded somewhat during waste-water treatment but did not break down entirely. Turns out small fragments of plastic are being flushed out into the water supplies where they can threaten marine life.
Halden stresses that contacts comprise a “very, very small fraction” of the plastics that ultimately wind up in the ocean. But plastic pollution is plastic pollution so contact wearers need to see to it that they dispose of old lenses properly.
“If you use them, just make sure you put them into the solid waste, and not have them enter the sink or toilet,” Halden says. “There’s a lot of plastic still going from our population into the environment, into the ocean, and it ultimately comes back to us and can harm us. Everyone should have an incentive to avoid plastic pollution.”