GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - If you wear disposable contacts, you might want to stop tossing them in the sink or toilet.
It turns out, it's taking a toll on the environment.
Whether you toss them in the sink or flush them down the toilet, new research on contact lenses suggests neither are great options.
"It's not so much that contact lenses are toxic or poisonous," said Mark Ferrey, an Environmental Research Scientist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. "It's what happens to them, probably, and other plastics that are flushed down the drain."
Ferrey is not one of the researchers who presented this to the American Chemical Society on Sunday.
But he says the research on contact lenses is concerning, because it shows that contact lenses are not easily biodegradable and could seep into surface water or rivers, affecting wildlife and the environment.
"When they reach the wastewater treatment plant for example, what they do is they tend to fragment into tinier and tinier pieces, and when they do that they tend to act like sponges," Ferrey said.
Sponges, he says, that could absorb poisonous substances and toxins from the wastewater treatment plant.
"Get into the river on the other side of the wastewater treatment plant and then they pose this risk to spread toxins," he said. "They're spread to fish and wildlife and maybe to people as well if they get into drinking water down the road."
Just to be safe, he says, try to avoid tossing your lenses down the drain. Instead, throw them in the trash.
The researchers conducted a survey on 400 contact wearers and 15 to 20 percent say they flush their contacts down the toilet or sink drain.