Cancer-Causing PFAS Chemicals Discovered in Contact Lenses

Laboratory tests of 18 popular kinds of soft contact lenses have uncovered that the contacts contain extremely high levels of organic fluorine, a marker of certain toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” that can lead to cancer, liver disease and autoimmune diseases .*


Study overview

The study was conducted at a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified laboratory and tested 18 popular kinds of contact lenses**. The results: the data revealed extremely high levels of organic fluorine, a marker of PFAS, in every kind of contact lens tested.

During the lab testing*** researchers found that all of the tested contact lenses exceeded 100 parts per million (ppm) of organic fluorine, which is equivalent to 100 million ppt, or 50,000 times more than the highest level deemed safe in drinking water by the EPA. One North Carolina State University researcher and scientific adviser on the contact lens testing.stated that the contact lenses were made of “almost pure PFAS chemicals”.


Summary of laboratory testing of contact lenses**

  • 100% of contact lenses sent to the EPA-certified laboratory had indications of toxic PFAS “forever chemicals.” 18 soft eye contact lens products were found to have detections of organic fluorine, a marker for PFAS.
  • Ranges of organic fluorine reported by the lab were from 105 to 20,700 parts per million (ppm). 
  • The most popular brands of eye contacts — Acuvue, Alcon, & Coopervision — were all found to have indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” at different levels.
  • 22% of contact lenses tested had over 18,000 parts per million (ppm) of organic fluorine. That’s 4 out of 18 products.
  • 44% of contact lenses tested had over 4,000 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine. That’s 8 out of 18 products.



In a word: Glasses.

*PFAS chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are toxic to humans, animals and the environment. They are comprised of approximately 14,000 human-made compounds. They are ubiquitous in the U.S., appearing in thousands of consumer and industrial products and are typically used to make products resist water, stains and heat, including household products (like carpeting, curtains, furniture upholstery, waterproof and stain-resistant flooring, etc.), cooking supplies (including cooking utensils and bake ware), clothing, personal care products (like cosmetics, including waterproof mascara, contact lenses, dental floss and feminine hygiene products) and even food (PFAS appears in processed food packaging for humans and pets) and public drinking water (tap water) that affects an estimated 2 million Americans. PFAS chemicals are usually found in products labeled “stain-proof” and “waterproof”.  PFAS chemicals also appear in fire-fighting foam and other industrial products used at airports and military bases across the country, where the chemicals have leached into the groundwater. PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not readily break down in the environment or human body.  PFAS chemicals have been linked in scientific and medical studies to a variety of serious health conditions including cancer (which includes testicular and kidney cancers), kidney disease, heart disease, thyroid problems, reproductive problems, endocrine problems (PFAS has been found to disrupt hormonal functions with some research suggesting that the PFAS chemicals are linked to accelerated ovarian aging, period irregularities and ovarian disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome) and liver problems. Some newer PFAS have been found to accumulate in organs, so in some cases, science simply cannot detect the toxic chemicals when testing for it in blood.

**Scientific reviews were performed by (1) Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of the Institute for Green Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, (2) Linda S. Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus and Former Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program & Scholar at Residence at Duke University, North Carolina University, & Yale University, (3) Pete Myers, Chief Scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and Co-Author of Our Stolen Future, & (4) Scott Belcher, Associate Professor with the Center for Environmental & Health Effects of PFAS at North Carolina State University.

***Laboratory testing and analysis costs were funded by Mamavation and Environmental Health News public health blogs.

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