Date: Mon, 15 Nov 2004 08:17:33 -0500
Reply-To: al.muehlhausen**At_Symbol_Here**CIBAVISION.NOVARTIS.COM
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: al.muehlhausen**At_Symbol_Here**CIBAVISION.NOVARTIS.COM
Subject: Re: Goggles and Contact Lenses
Comments: To: ACTSNYC**At_Symbol_Here**CS.COM

Here is a well written position paper by Karen Messana that we rely on for 

guidance regarding issues surrounding the use of contact lenses in our 
Research Laboratories.

Al Muehlhausen
Health, Safety, and Environmental Officer
Corporate Headquarters and R&D
CIBA Vision Corporation

Years of lens use and research studies have settled the issue: Wearing 
contacts in a chemical environment or other environments doesn't increase 
the risk of injury. 
by Karen Messana 
Safety professionals should no longer take the position of prohibiting the 

wearing of contact lenses in the workplace, and the requirements to wear 
PPE for "eye hazardous" situations should be no different for wearers than 

non-wearers. Why can this be said? Because after 40 years of contact lens 
use, there is no well-documented information that wearing contacts 
increases the risk of injury over that of non-wearers and wearers of 
spectacles, whether we are talking about foreign bodies, or chemicals, or 
other eye hazard sources. 
Studies have looked at eye hazards such as flying metal/dust particles, 
chemicals, and radiant energy such as UV and IR. (1, 2, 3) Specific 
chemicals tested include acetone, ammonia, acetic acid, creosol, 
butylamine, toluene, xylene, diethyl ether, trichloroethylene, sodium 
hydroxide, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and tear gases.(4, 5, 6) In 
each instance, none documented a greater risk of injury to the contact 
lens wearer over the non-wearer--and in most, a protective effect was 
noted. In addition, there is a paucity of reported or anecdotal evidence 
of injuries resulting from contact lens use in the workplace.(7, 8) A 
review of 7,000 contact lens-related abstracts on the PubMed Web site 
spanning more than 30 years resulted in only a handful of studies or 
reviews regarding contact lenses in the workplace. None resulted in 
conclusions that wearing contacts in a chemical environment or other 
environments increased risk of injury. 
Studies show that for each instance of eye injury demonstrated to be more 
severe due to wearing contact lenses, there are about 30 instances where 
similar exposure circumstances prevented or reduced injuries, or at least 
did not increase the severity of the injury, when the person was wearing 
contact lenses.(9, 10, 11) Put another way: Every time we prohibit someone 

from wearing contact lenses in an eye hazardous environment, we increase 
our chances of that person experiencing an eye injury greater than would 
have occurred if an "accident" happens. Logic dictates that wearing 
contacts should be encouraged in such environments, not discouraged. 
The Seat Belt Analogy 
We all know it wouldn't be hard to find a study or two that indicated that 

some people suffer more injury from wearing a seat belt than from not 
wearing a seat belt when a collision occurs. However, the vast majority of 

the time, the seat belt user is either protected from any injury, the 
severity of the injury is reduced, or there is no difference in injury 
outcome when compared to a non-seat belt wearer. Knowing this, we choose 
to wear the seat belt because of its overall beneficial effect. Replace 
the words "seat belt" in this paragraph with "contact lenses," and the 
same substantiated statement of benefit can be made. 
So where have our concerns about contact lenses in the workplace come 
from? When contact lenses first became an issue of concern in the 
workplace, there were no guidelines or data to consider in assessing risk 
associated with their use. Based on worst case scenarios, perceived risks, 

and problems encountered by new wearers of contact lenses, conservative 
positions were taken by authoritative bodies that prohibited contacts lens 

use in industrial environments, even when additional eye protection was 
worn. At the time, the primary fears and perceived risks included 
statements such as: 
?  Foreign bodies, normally washed away with tears, could become trapped 
under the lens and thereby abrade the cornea (the cornea is the part of 
the eye we see through, and contacts fit directly over the cornea, hence 
the concern). 
?  Chemicals could absorb through the lens, resulting in subsequent injury 

to the cornea. 
?  Chemicals entering the eye could cause eyelid spasms that would prevent 

removal of the lens for flushing. 
In addition, two widely misreported incidents fueled concerns about the 
hazards of contact lenses and lent credibility to unsubstantiated beliefs. 

The first was the 1967 arc flash that supposedly fused the worker's 
contact lenses to his eyes, and when the lenses were removed, the cornea 
peeled off and he was blinded.(12) 
In reality, the worker wore his lenses too long and suffered a corneal 
ulceration, which healed completely in a couple of days. He had been 
exposed to an electrical arc the same day without incident, hence the 
source of the rumor. 
The second incident involved a widely-read industrial ophthalmologist who, 

while proposing a restrictive contact lens use policy, used a chemical eye 

injury incident to support his position.(13) The incident involved a 50 
percent caustic splash to an engineer's face while wearing contact lenses 
with goggles; although the engineer suffered eye injury, there was no 
documentation of how the contacts contributed to the injury, if at all, or 

what type of goggles were involved. 
Foreign Bodies, Chemicals 
With regard to the concern of foreign body being under a lens, studies and 

anecdotal situations have proven these beliefs to be unsubstantiated.(1, 
2) The theory of what actually happens is that the normal adhesion force 
of the lens to the eye surface prevents a foreign body from entering the 
space under it, and particles are easily removed by normal tearing, 
blinking, and cleaning. 
Although studies have shown that some chemicals can be absorbed into 
certain soft lenses, the studies have not demonstrated that the chemicals 
reach the other side and injure the cornea. Typically, the contact lens 
initially acts as a sponge/vacuum, keeping the chemical in its core and 
away from its surfaces.(11, 14) In addition, studies imply that tears 
attract the absorbed chemical to come back out and away from the lens. 
Furthermore, it is unlikely chemicals of concern (corrosives) are 
absorbing into the lens fast enough to become trapped under the lens 
without plenty of notice ahead of time to the wearer. Imagine being 
splashed in the eye with a corrosive or vapors slowly accumulating their 
concentration in the lens. The eye pain and irritation would necessitate 
prompt flushing action, with subsequent removal of the lens. In addition, 
when the eye is chemically attacked, studies postulate that the eye spasms 

and literally sucks the lens against the corneal surface, preventing the 
chemical from entering that space for some period of time.(15) 
Meanwhile, the person would be flushing the eye with water, greatly 
diluting any residual chemical. The contact lenses would have protected 
the cornea from the immediate, direct contact of the highest concentration 

of the substance. 
What Do the Experts Say Today? 
The American Chemical Society's Committee on Chemical Safety: "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 based on rumors and 
perceived risks. A careful study of the literature 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. It is the consensus of the committee that contact 
lenses can be worn in most work environments provided the same approved 
eye protection is worn as required of others in the area. 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."16 
The American Optometric Association: "An evaluation of the published 
material, including laboratory and animal studies, and well documented 
case reports, indicates that contact lenses may be worn safely under a 
variety of environmental situations including those which, from a 
superficial evaluation, might appear hazardous. Indeed, some types of 
contact lenses may give added protection to spectacle lens and 
non-spectacle lens wearers in instance of certain fume exposure, chemical 
splash, dust, flying particles, and optical radiation. The evidence also 
refutes the claims that contact lenses negate the protection provided by 
safety equipment or make the cornea more susceptible to damage by optical 
radiation. . . . Regulations limiting the wearing of contact lenses in any 

given circumstances must be scientifically defensible and effectively 
enforceable. They should not be based on perceived hazards, random 
experience, isolated unverified case histories, or unsubstantiated 
personal opinions."(17) 
OSHA's preamble for the Final Rule on PPE in 1994 states: "OSHA believes 
that contact lenses do not pose additional hazards to the wearer and 
additional regulation is unnecessary." 
In summary, it is reasonable to allow the use of contact lenses in any 
area that the unaided eye is permitted. It is not necessary to require 
removal of contact lenses prior to entering eye hazardous environments. 
Instead, require the use of PPE and if PPE is to be worn, then, base it on 

the assessment that all persons need to wear the PPE, not just contact 
lens wearers. 
Overall, safety professionals can ensure that eye protection policies are 
in writing, a PPE hazard assessment is conducted, proper eye protection is 

designated, contact lens users are identified, emergency and first aid 
procedures are addressed, and contact lens wearers are educated and 
trained. In addition, these wearers should be encouraged to have a spare 
set of corrective lenses available on the job. 
1. Nilsson, S.E.G., P. Lovsund and P.A. Oberg: Contact Lenses and 
Mechanical Trauma to the Eye. Acta Ophthalmol . 59:402-408 (1981). 
2. Nilsson, S.E.G., H. Lindh and L. Andersson: Contact Lens Wear in an 
Environment Contaminated with Metal Particles. Acta Ophthalmol . 61:882-888
3. Owen C.G, T.H. Margrain T.H., E.G. Woodward: Use of Contact Lenses by 
Firefighters: Part 2. Clinical Evaluation. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt . May; 17
(3):205-15 (1997). 
4. LaMotte, J., G. Smith, A. Chang Smith: "Absorption of Ammonia by High 
Water Content Hydrogel Lenses: An Inexpensive Method of Analysis"; Optometr
y and Vision Science , 72:605-607 (1995). 
5. Aalphen, C.C. Kok-van, W. van der Lindern, R. Visser and A.H. Bol: 
Protection of the Police Against Tear Gas with Soft Lenses. Mil Med . 150(8
):451-453 (1985). 
6. Hejkal T.W., R.E. Records, C. Kubitschek, C. Humphrey: Diffusion of 
Volatile Organics Through Contact Lenses. CLAO J . Jan 18(1):41-45 (1992). 

7. Hirschfelder, D.: Contact Lenses in the Workplace: The Dilemma. Sight Sa
v. Rev . 52(1):14-18 (1983). 
8. Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Inc.: "Position 
Paper--Industrial Safety." New Orleans , LA , 1979. 
9. Blais, B.R.: "The Use of Contact Lenses in an Industrial Environment" 
(unpublished manuscript). Bethesda , Maryland : Uniformed Services 
University of the Health Sciences, April 1985. 
10. Wesley, N.K.: Chemical Injury and Contact Lenses. Contacto . 10(3):15-2
0 (1966). 
11. Nilsson, S.E.G. and L. Andersson: The Use of Contact Lenses in 
Environments with Organic Solvents, Acids, or Alkalis. Acta Ophthalmol . 60
:599-608 (1982). 
12. Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Inc.: Policy Statement 
on Arc Welding and Contact Lens Wear. Cont. Intraocular Lens Med. J . 9(4):
343 ( July 23, 1983 ). 
13. Kuhn, H.S.: Contact Lenses-Threat to Vision? Nat. Saf. News . June:23 (
14. Tredici, T. J. and W.J. Flynn: The Use of Contact Lenses by USAF 
Aviators. Avia., Space, Environ. Med . 58:438-443 (1987). 
15. Guthrie, J.W. and G.F. Seitz: An Investigation of the Chemical Contact 

Lens Problem. J. Occup. Med . 17(3):163-166 (1975). 

Karen Messana ( kmessana**At_Symbol_Here** ), CSP, MS Industrial Hygiene, has 
21 years of safety experience. She 
currently is the EHS Manager for a chemical manufacturer. Messana wrote 
her master's degree technical paper on the workplace use of contact lenses 

in 1989 and has continued to follow the issue. 

=A9 Copyright 2001 Stevens Publishing Corporation 
5151 Beltline Road, 10th Floor, Dallas, Texas 75240 

Sent by: DCHAS-L Discussion List 
11/14/2004 02:59 PM
Please respond to ACTSNYC

        To:     DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
        cc:     (bcc: Al Muehlhausen/CV/Novartis)
        Subject:        Re: [DCHAS-L] Goggles and Contact Lenses

I agree with use of contact lenses as well.

We mustn't oversimplify splash goggles either.  There are vented, indirect
vented, and unvented splash goggles.  I need to recommend even different 
of splash goggles for different purposes in my work.  Eye protection is 

Monona Rossol

In a message dated 11/13/04 6:21:08 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
> Phil is absolutely right.  Chemical splash does need goggles.  But the
> problem is that many folks can't, don't, or won't distinguish between 
> and
> chemical splash goggles.
> So, saying goggles in simply insufficient.  One must say chemical splash
> goggle for a chemical splash.  And ANSI/ASSE could do us all a big favor 

> asking
> the manufacturer to put the selection chart letter after the Z-87.1 to
> indicate the type of device.
> Concerning contact lenses, they do it for good reason.  Six years ago, 
> five years of study, the ACS Council Committee on Chemical Safety joined
> other
> major organizations (Prevent Blindness America, American Optometric
> Association) and many companies (Dow, 3M, and DuPont) by agreeing that
> contact lenses
> are acceptable as long as all the other necessary eye protection is 
> So, I for one am not the least bit upset about contact lens use and very 

> agree with the ACS position.  ... Jim

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