Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton for introducing this bill. I think it is very important.
We must protect Canadians' ocular health. This very simple measure will help reduce the number of eye injuries. Cosmetic contact lenses must be subject to the same regulations as corrective lenses because they present the same health risks. Bill C-313 will help fix a problem that health care professionals have been calling on the government to fix for years.
One of the primary responsibilities of the government should be to protect Canadians from potentially dangerous products. The bill would ensure that corrective contact lenses and cosmetic contact lenses are subject to the same government regulations, since their use presents the same health risks.
Over the past 10 years, health care professionals have warned Canadians about the risks and dangers associated with using unregulated cosmetic lenses. In 2000, Health Canada issued a warning about cosmetic contact lenses and recommended that they be used only under the supervision of an eye care professional. In 2003, Health Canada recommended that the federal government regulate the use of cosmetic contact lenses.
The risks associated with using cosmetic contact lenses without professional oversight have been extensively documented. Problems occur when the contacts are not fitted to the eye—like shoe size, eye size varies greatly from one person to another—when the contacts are of questionable quality, or when they come from a truly unknown supplier.
Problems often occur when consumers are not given the appropriate and necessary information and instructions on how to use the contacts safely, for example, how to put them in, how to take them out and how to clean them.
Cosmetic contact lenses can be quite funky and there are many different types—there are some that look like soccer balls, some that make the iris appear larger, and other sometimes very funny things. Many young people share these contacts but they definitely should not in order to avoid infection.
Cosmetic contact lenses are becoming increasingly popular and, since today is Halloween, they are being sold absolutely everywhere: in convenience stores, beauty salons, and so on.
According to a report published by Health Canada in 2003, the rate of serious injury among people using corrective contact lenses every day is approximately 1% and the overall rate of complication is about 10%. It is estimated that the rate of injury and complication—for example, infection, inflammation or ulceration—is much higher among cosmetic contact lens users.
In 2007, vision loss accounted for the Canadian health care system's highest direct cost, as compared to any other illness. Doctors also say that wearing these contacts prevents people from seeing contrasts properly. Contact lenses reduce the eyes' sensitivity. It is sometimes very difficult to see when wearing cosmetic contacts because there is something in the eye. This results in improper vision. Someone who is wearing them while driving could even cause an accident.
There are many viruses and bacteria that attack the eyes, and we never know which may attack our eyes. This can happen if we share lenses with a friend who has an infection. So we have to be very cautious when we share contact lenses with other people. The best thing is simply not to do it at all.
Wearing cosmetic contact lenses can lead to a lot of other problems.
These contact lenses are meant to be worn up to a certain date. There is an expiry date, as for milk. Often, people who wear them forget to take them out and throw them in the garbage. That leads to various complications, such as corneal ulcers. Corneal ulcers are genuinely dangerous and can cause scarring of the eyes. That is truly dangerous. If they are not treated, the ulcers can even lead to permanent loss of sight.
Even though cosmetic contact lenses seem harmless, they can cause eye injuries in a person who wears them: an allergic reaction, a bacterial infection, swelling or inflammation of the cornea, and ulceration or scratching of the cornea. These sight problems can become permanent.
Some of these injuries occur in less than 24 hours. They can be very difficult to treat and in some cases can become permanent. The potential risks associated with this type of contact lens are a known fact. As well, there are numerous studies and there is considerable evidence showing the potential dangers associated with misuse of cosmetic contact lenses without supervision by a specialist.
But passing this bill is merely the first step. What the federal government has to do is work with the provinces and territories to establish an effective regulatory scheme for cosmetic contact lenses.
We are talking a lot about Halloween. As mothers, we look for clothing to use for costumes. My little boy, who is 10 years old, has asked for contact lenses for his costume. I therefore think that regulation is very appropriate, and I congratulate my colleague opposite on her bill.
I join my colleagues in the NDP in supporting this bill.