Researchers tracked them to waste water treatment plants, where they discovered the lenses fall apart but do not degrade. "But I started to wonder, has anyone done research on what happens to these plastic lenses after their useful lifespan is over?"
Halden says contacts that sink could pose a threat to aquatic life, especially bottom-feeding fish that might mistake microplastics for food and eat the indigestible material.
"We found that there were noticeable changes in the bonds of the contact lenses after long-term treatment with the plant's microbes".
The bad news being, lenses do not biodegrade easily even if they are biomedical goods.
"There are billions of lenses ending up in U.S. wastewater every year".
"Billions of contact lenses get flushed down the drain every year in the USA, and researchers from Arizona State University have discovered it takes more than a week for the lenses to even begin to disintegrate, according to research detailed in Scientific American".
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Some scientists at Arizona State University asked that question and found that a lot of them are going down the sink or getting flushed down the toilet - adding to the problem of microplastic pollution. They can be harmful to wildlife. First, they gave an anonymous survey of 139 people, including those who wear contacts and those who don't. "This leads to smaller plastic particles which would ultimately lead to the formation of microplastics", said Varun Kelkar, one of the authors of the study.
Halden said many people do not realize that flushing contact lenses is risky to the environment. Since it began in November 2016, the company says the program has collected 2.5 million used lenses, amounting to about 7 tons of waste.
They may look tiny and harmless, but with billions being flushed each year, they're having a bigger environmental impact than you may realize. They become incorporated into sewage sludge that is spread on fields to fertilize the soil.
Contact lenses are a small part of the pollution problem, Rolsky said, but he hopes that the findings encourage people to think more about how to get rid of plastic waste.
The scientific team found only one contact lens manufacturer whose packaging advised people how to dispose of them properly.