Cosmetic contacts for Halloween costumes prompt consumer warning

Decorative contacts purchased without prescription could be illegally imported products that may cause serious eye damage, US customs officials say.

Decorative contact lenses may fittingly cap a spooky Halloween costume, but federal officials say they may cause a scare of their own.

With Halloween fast approaching, federal officials on Friday announced a warning to consumers who may have interest in purchasing decorative contacts, saying unlicensed vendors may be selling a counterfeit product. The lenses may cause pink eye or worse, blindness.

Halloween is a major holiday in which criminal elements take the opportunity to exploit consumers without any regard to their health and safety” said Bruce Foucart, director of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s national intellectual property rights coordination center, in a statement.

The investigation, called Operation Double Vision, is now in its third year and has netted over 20,000 pairs of counterfeit and decorative contact lens, ICE said on Friday.

Contact lenses are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and cannot be sold by unauthorized dealers without a prescription from an eye doctor. Retailers who do not request documentation from a doctor are breaking the law, ICE said, and could be selling illegally imported contact lenses.

It is estimated that 11% of consumers wear decorative contacts, according to studies by optometrists, most of which are purchased without a prescription. Nearly 60% of individuals who wear contact lenses keep them in their eyes longer than the recommended timeframe, ICE said.

Proper fitting and lens care instruction are essential“, said the Georgia Optometric Association president, Dr. Judson Briggs, in a statement. “I have never seen an eye exam or witnessed a contact lens training session conducted at a flea market or gas station. You only get one set of eyes, so don’t put them at risk by using contact lenses sold or purchased illegally.

The FDA previously pointed to one West Virginia resident who paid $30 for a pair of colored contact lenses. Without a license, the purchase landed the woman in an emergency room, where she was diagnosed with a corneal abrasion.

Federal officials said anyone who chooses to wear decorative contact lenses, and experiences eye redness, prolonged eye pain or decreased vision should immediately seek medical treatment.


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