Tis the season to dress up, but when does dressing up effect your health?
With Halloween fast approaching, federal law-enforcement authorities are warning consumers against dangerous counterfeit contact lenses, and unapproved decorative contact lenses. These lenses are often sold at retail outlets and online. However, these products can cause eye infections, conjunctivitis, and impaired visions.
Several hundred seizures, totaling around 100,000 pairs of counterfeit, illegal, and unapproved contact lenses were conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"Criminal elements will capitalize on the excitement of the holiday season by selling substandard, dangerous counterfeit and illegal items with no regard for the health and safety of consumers." said ICE Homeland Security Investigations Executive Associate Director Peter Edge. "Our agents are committed to collaborating with external agencies to develop effective operations and conduct aggressive investigations into the distribution of fake goods that threaten the American public with lengthy medical procedures and strenuous rehabilitation process."
During several investigations into the counterfeit lenses, testing was conducted. These tests revealed high levels of bacteria that could cause serious health issues. These bacterial problems are likely due to poor sanitary conditions during packaging and substandard storage during the shipping process.
Another issue discovered while testing the decorative lenses dealt with the coloring on the lens. The coloring may be made of lead-based materials that leach directly into the eye.
Officials advise consumers, who are looking into purchasing any decorative eyewear, to visit an eye doctor and obtain a prescription to purchase them from a licensed provider.
"A valid prescription helps ensure consumers get contact lenses that are determined to be safe and effective by the FDA," said George M. Karavetsos, Director of the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations. "Without it, people can risk serious eye injuries or loss of eyesight for one night of fun."
Approximately 40 million Americans wear contact lenses, which the FDA regulates as medical devices under federal law.
"You'd never buy a new hip at a flea market and you should never buy a medical device like contact lenses at one either," said Georgia Optometric Association President Dr. Ben Casella. "If you're not careful, one night of using knock-off lenses to change you appearance can mean a permanent change in your ability to see for the rest of your life."