Feds issue counterfeit costume contact lens warning
WASHINGTON - As the weather cools and people begin to finalize their Halloween costume choices, federal officials released an official warning to the public about the dangers of novelty contact lenses, not approved by the FDA, and sold by many retailers throughout the nation.
Federal agents are engaged in an ongoing effort, dubbed "Operation Double Vision", to crack down on the illegal importation of the counterfeit decorative contact lenses, and said they want the public to know about the medical risks associated with the contraband lenses.
As a result of Operation Double Vision, federal agents reported 74 seizures with a total of more than 20,000 pairs of the potentially harmful contact lenses taken off the streets.
Beyonnd the health risks, the sale of contact lenses without a prescription is illegal in the United States. Officials warn consumers to never buy contact lenses from retailers such as costume shops, gas stations, beauty supply stores or online if the seller does not require a prescription.
Medical experts tell consumers who are interested in modifying their eye color with decorative lenses to get an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor, get a valid prescsription and only purchase lenses that include the brand names, lens measurement and an expiration date. They also warned consumers about the risks of circle lenses, or anime lenses, that give the wearer a wide-eyed, doll-like look. The lenses have not been approved by the FDA and can not be prescribed by optometrists as they carry risks to eye health.
"You'd never buy a heart valve at a gas station and you should never buy a medical device like contact lenses at one either," said Dr. Jeffrey Hackleman, president of the Georgia Optometric Association. "You only get one pair of eyes and risking a lifetime of vision for a quick thrill is quite frankly not being vision smart. Contact lenses are like sponges that can absorb bacteria and cause an infection if not handled properly. A lifetime of good vision is so much more important than a cheap Halloween accessory."