Contact lenses

Henry Ramsey; W. H. Jack Breazeale, Jr.
1995-97 chair Joint Board-Council Committee on Chemical Safety
1998 chair Joint Board-Council Committee on Chemical Safety Hydroxyurea

Chemical & Engineering News (1 Jun 1998) Vol. 76, No. 22, pp. 6.


Through a number of editions of "Safety in Academic Chemistry Laboratories," the American Chemical Society Joint Board-Council Committee on Chemical Safety has recommended that contact lenses not be worn in the chemical laboratory. For several years, the Committee on Chemical Safety, through its subcommittees, and the Division of Chemical Health & Safety, through symposia and the magazine Chemical Health & Safety, have been studying the wearing of contact lenses in the chemical laboratory.

Contrary to the widely held beliefs concerning the dangers associated with wearing contact lenses in a chemical environment, there is no published evidence to support that belief. After detailed studies concerning the use of contact lenses in a chemical environment, the Committee on Chemical Safety has revised its recommendation regarding their use. The new statement will be included in the next and future editions of "Safety in Academic Chemistry Laboratories." Following is the new recommendation on wearing contact lenses in the chemical laboratory, especially the academic laboratory:

"In many workplaces where hazardous chemicals are used or handled, the wearing of contact lenses is prohibited or discouraged. A good number of these prohibitions are traceable to earlier statements in this book that were based on rumors and perceived risks. A careful study of the literature by knowledgeable consultants has refuted these risks. Recent studies and experience have suggested that, in fact, contact lenses do not increase risks but can actually minimize or prevent injury in many situations.

"Because of the ever-increasing use of contact lenses and the benefits they provide, the American Chemical Society Committee on Chemical Safety, having studied and reviewed the issue, is of the consensus that contact lenses can be worn in most work environments provided the same approved eye protection is worn as required of other workers in the area.

"Clearly, the type of eye protection needed depends upon the circumstances. It should be stressed that contact lenses, by themselves, do not provide adequate protection in any environment in which the chance of an accidental splash of a chemical can reasonably be anticipated. Appropriate eye protection in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Standard (29 CFR 1910.132 and 133) and ANSI Z87.1a-1991 should always be worn in such situations."

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