Federal Agents Crack Down On Illegal Cat-Eye Contact Lenses

A dozen retailers in the Los Angeles area are facing federal charges for selling illegal contact lenses designed to look like cat’s eyes, CBS Los Angeles is reporting.

Dubbed “Operation Cat Eyes,” the contact lens crackdown targeted multiple retail outlets–several of which were temporary operations selling Halloween merchandise–that sold the illegal contact lenses. According to KSBY in San Luis Obispo, the illegal cat-eye contacts were contaminated with bacteria that can cause blindness.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers all contact lenses, even cosmetic or decorative contacts, as prescription medical devices that must be regulated by the FDA. In other words, as far as the FDA is concerned, people can’t use decorative cat-eye contacts unless you have a prescription for regular contacts.

[Cosmetic contact lenses] can temporarily change your brown eyes to blue or make your eyes look like cat eyes or vampire eyes for Halloween. Did you know that these decorative contact lenses are actually medical devices? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversees their safety and effectiveness, just like regular contact lenses. Just like regular contact lenses you should never buy contact lenses from a street vendor, a beauty supply store, flea market, novelty store or Halloween store—and you should always have a prescription.

KTTV in Los Angeles reports that illegal cosmetic contact lenses–including vampire and zombie models in addition to cat-eye models–are sold by unscrupulous retailers year-round, but particularly around Halloween. Reporter Ramona Schindelheim went to one such store selling contact lenses purported to be “FDA-approved.” However, when pressed to find labels on the illegal contacts proving that they were safe and legal, the retailer wasn’t able to provide any proof.

University of Southern California Eye Institute ophthalmologist Martin Heur told KTTV that illegal cosmetic contacts can be dangerous to your eyesight.

Corneal scarring, or corneal infections, can lead to permanent vision loss, especially if you sleep in them; it can happen overnight.”

As evidence of the danger of illegal cosmetic contacts, Dr. Heur mentioned the story of a West Virginia woman who lost an eye after using illegal contacts.

This is not the first time federal agents have raided retailers selling seemingly mundane merchandise. Last month, Homeland Security agents raided a Kansas City lingerie shop, according to this Inquisitr report, for selling illegal underpants.

Do you believe the contact lens crackdown was justified, or should consumers be able to take such risks for themselves?

[Image courtesy of IMG Arcade]