February 1990

Interactions of Benzalkonium Chloride With Soft and Hard Contact Lenses

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Ophthalmology (Drs Chapman and Green and Ms Cheeks) and Physiology and Endocrinology (Dr Green), Medical College of Georgia, Augusta.

Arch Ophthalmol. 1990;108(2):244-246. doi:10.1001/archopht.1990.01070040096038

• We measured the uptake and washout of benzalkonium chloride, using radioactive tracer, by representative hard and soft contact lenses. Uptake by soft contact lenses after 7 days of continuous exposure is high (30 to 56 μg/mg of lens weight), with a low percentage of washout in 24 hours (between 0.2% and 1.5% of total uptake). High-water content lenses absorb greater quantities of benzalkonium than do low-water content lenses. Hard lenses take up a much smaller quantity of benzalkonium but release between 30% and 60% of total uptake during washout for 24 hours. Fluorosilicone-acrylate polymer lenses adsorb and release the most preservative, while polymethylmethacrylate lenses (Paragon Optical Inc, Mesa, Ariz) adsorb and release the least. The released benzalkonium from either soft or hard lenses is of a sufficient concentration to be at or above the upper limits of safety.