Elevated levels of serum per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in contact lens users of US young adults

January 16, 2024

Despite evidence indicating the presence of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in contact lenses (CL), it remains unclear whether CL use increases PFAS exposure in the general population. We aimed to determine whether CL users have higher serum concentrations of PFAS than non-users, using data of 1660 adults aged 20–39 years participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999–2000 and 2003–2008. We classified the individuals into CL users and non-users using the record of vision correction types during a vision test. Serum concentrations of six individual PFAS were measured, and the overall PFAS burden was calculated by item response theory scoring. Survey-weighted linear models were used to compare serum PFAS levels between CL users and non-users after adjusting for covariates. Distributions of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) concentrations were compared with reference values (e.g., human biomonitoring [HBM]-II values) indicating potential for adverse health effects. Survey-weighted linear models revealed that covariate-adjusted serum PFOA concentration was higher in CL users (geometric mean [GM]: 3.68 ng/mL; 95% CI: 3.00, 4.50) than in non-users (GM: 3.27 ng/mL; 95% CI: 2.81, 3.80; p = 0.02). Similarly, CL users had a significantly higher serum PFHxS concentration (GM: 1.58 ng/mL; 95% CI: 1.13, 2.20) than non-users (GM: 1.30 ng/mL; 95% CI: 1.10, 1.66; p = 0.03). CL users also had a significantly higher overall burden of PFAS than non-users. The differences in PFAS concentrations between CL users and non-users were more pronounced in females than in males. Moreover, a larger proportion of lens users (4.5%), compared to non-users (3.9%), had PFOA concentrations above the HBM-II, where adverse health effects are expected from PFOA exposure. This study suggests that CL use in general U.S. young adults may contribute significantly to PFAS body burden, which can potentially lead to public health problem.


View on ScienceDirect