Illegal sales of color contacts spur warnings

Man with a contact lens that changes his eye colorOver-the-counter sales of fake contact lenses spike during the holidays, but are illegal in most states and can cause permanent eye damage and blindness, warn consumer interest groups on the Better Business Bureau's web site.

The reminder, originating from the Ohio attorney general's office, addresses a sharp increase in the number of consumer complaints and resulting cease-and-desist orders to businesses selling color contacts on the black market - at gas stations, beauty supply stores and Halloween costume shops.

"It has become trendy for teens to make a fashion statement with cosmetic contact lenses of various colors. While these devices can add a fun flourish to a costume, they can also result in devastating eye infections, scarring and even blindness," said Sherry Williams, a spokeswoman for Prevent Blindness Ohio, an eyesight advocacy group, in a statement.

Legally, all contact lenses, including corrective and cosmetic ones, must be purchased with a valid prescription, and businesses that sell them over-the-counter do so without regard for proper fit or education about their use and care, the state's Optical Dispensers Board says. In the past three months, the board has issued 10 cease-and-desist orders to violators, compared with a total of 15 cease-and-desist orders in fiscal year 2010 and 13 the year before that.

In an unrelated decoration-themed advisory, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is reminding parents to use flame-resistant fabrics such as nylon and polyester for their children's costumes. The commission suggests flameless candles and light sticks as a safe alternative to jack-o'-lanterns for lighting areas where children have access.

Oddly, the agency is also warning against oversized high heels for kids.
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