Alas, your optometrist’s office is now subject to Prop 65 too, just like all stores that sell any plastic products. Proposition 65 requires that Californians be informed of consumer products that may cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. You have probably seen signs in stores and on products indicating that some items “contain a chemical known in California to cause cancer.” More than 900 substances belong on this list of carcinogenic products.
Recently, a chemical known as bisphenol A, BpA, was added to this list. BpA as many of you know, is found almost everywhere – food containers, compact discs and DVDs, bicycle helmets and electronic equipment. At your optometrist’s office, it’s found in trace amounts in some plastic eyeglass frames and in polycarbonate, a very common lens used in eyeglasses. With only trace amounts of BpA detected in a polycarbonate lens and plastic eyewear frame, how much exposure are you really getting? The studies have shown that most exposure to BpA is largely ingested and that any exposure through skin contact is negligible.
What does this mean for us spectacle lovers? First of all, polycarbonate lenses are placed inside your frame and has virtually no contact to your face (unless you bought a pair of rimless frames that sit directly on your cheeks.) Secondly, polycarbonate lenses and plastic frames have been widely used for decades, with no direct correlation to an increase in health problems. Lastly, there is not enough research to indicate how much exposure you are truly getting from skin contact. If you’re in the habit of chewing on your plastic frames or licking your lenses, then obviously, you’d want to stop that, if not for the fact that that’s a weird and unhygienic habit.
So, what should you do? Most of the eyecare industry is not flummoxed by this recent change in consumer warning. But if you are concerned, there are plenty of other optically superior, thinner and more lightweight lenses available on the market. And instead of plastic frames, choose a titanium or plant based (wood or bamboo) frame instead. Ask your optometrist, there are plenty of other options available on the market. And lastly, buy reputable frames and lenses with known quality, whose manufacturer you can directly contact if you have specific questions regarding manufacturing and ingredients.
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