As consumers shop for Halloween costumes, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs warns them to avoid the use of novelty contact lenses, which are associated with significant health risks including eye infection and permanent vision loss.
The Division also reminds retailers that the sale of novelty contact lenses is a fourth-degree crime under New Jersey law, subject to significant penalties, unless they are sold by a licensed ophthalmic dispenser or a licensed medical practitioner or optometrist. The US Food and Drug Administration regulates novelty lenses as medical devices, similar to corrective lenses.
Novelty contact lenses are non-corrective lenses, worn directly on the eye and designed to change the eye’s appearance. When used with proper medical oversight, and as part of a multimillion-dollar Hollywood production, they can make professional actors look like savage orcs (as in The Lord of the Rings) or hideous zombies (as in The Walking Dead).
But unless they’re dispensed by a properly licensed medical practitioner, optometrist, or ophthalmic dispenser, novelty lenses are best left to the pros. The FDA has received reports of corneal ulcers, eye infections, and permanent vision loss resulting from the use of decorative contact lenses.
Other risks include conjunctivitis (an infection of the eye), corneal edema (swelling), allergic reaction, and corneal abrasion due to improper lens fit – health consequences that last longer than a costume party, and are far scarier than anything likely to jump out at you this Halloween.
Under New Jersey law, specifically N.J.S.A. 2C:40-25, the sale of contact lenses by anyone who is not a licensed ophthalmic dispenser, medical practitioner, or optometrist, is a fourth-degree crime. The penalty for a first offense is a fine of at least $1,000; for a second offense, a fine of at least $5,000 and the performance of 40 hours of community service; and for a third and subsequent offenses, a fine of at least $10,000 and 100 hours of community service.
Information on novelty contact lenses and their associated health risks is included in the Division of Consumer Affairs’ flyer, “Novelty Contact Lenses: Dangerous and Illegal Without a Prescription,” available at a http://www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/alert/eyedanger.pdf and in Spanish at http://www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/alert/eyedangerSP.pdf.
For general Halloween safety, follow the three steps recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC): Prevent Fires and Burns, See and Be Seen, and Fit for Safety. See the CPSC fact sheet at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml12/12018.pdf.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website, NJConsumerAffairs.gov, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey ) or 973-504-6200.
Follow the Division of Consumer Affairs on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/pages/NJ-Division-of-Consumer-Affairs/112957465445651 ; and check our online calendar of upcoming Consumer Outreach events, at http://www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/outreach.
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