Contact Lenses Add to Plastic Pollution

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Too many users are flushing them down the toilet.

Disposable contact lenses are posing a real threat to the environment, The New York Times reports.

Research presented at the American Chemical Society’s meeting in Boston last month showed that 20 percent of more than 400 contact wearers in a random survey flushed used contacts down the toilet or washed them down the sink, rather than putting them in the garbage.

From there, the lenses make their way to a wastewater treatment facility, where they do not biodegrade easily. They may fragment, adding to the growing problem of microplastic pollution.

A study in 2015 found 93,000 to 236,000 metric tons of microplastic in the ocean.

Filters keep some non-biological waste out of treatment plants, said Rolf Halden, the director of the Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University, and Charles Rolsky, a graduate student and the study’s lead author.

But contacts are so flexible that they can fold up and make their way through. The researchers interviewed workers at such facilities, who confirmed that they had spotted lenses in the waste.

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