As the world becomes increasingly concerned with the earth and its inhabitants, ECPs can do their part by making their lens fabricating healthy and environmental.
Ophthalmic equipment manufacturers have embraced the eco-friendly lab concept and are able to assist eyecare professionals (ECPs) with equipment that minimizes waste and encourages healthy practices.
One example is Coburn Technologies, Inc.’s Cobalt lens generator, which fabricates free-form lenses using mist cut technology. Two distinct advantages of this unit are its smaller footprint and lack of extensive water filtration equipment. Its Euro Kleenchill System extends the life of the lens polish up to a full year, thereby eliminating excessive waste while also decreasing fabrication costs.
ECO SOLVENTS, ALLOYS & TINTS
The ECP who strives for an eco-friendly lab should be aware of chemicals and additives used in lens processing. Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK), also known as Butanone, and other similar solvents are used in a variety of different lens coating products. Recognizing the hazards associated with these solvents, Coburn has eliminated them from current products such as UV-MAX and UV-AR solutions.
Lens blocking materials have also seen important changes. Lead alloy, long used in the optical industry, has been replaced with inert wax that is safe for human contact and can be reused and then disposed of in a landfill after it’s no longer useable.
Coburn has two non-alloy blocking materials, Freebond and Onyx bond. Schneider’s Connex non-alloy material is used along with its CB Connect blocker in conjunction with its Proline. Satisloh’s ART system (Alloy-Replacement Technology) environmental blocking option uses a reusable, organic block and UV-curable adhesive, replacing the tape, to protect the front surface.
For the ECP who does in-house tinting, eco-friendly options are provided by Brain Power, Inc. (BPI) for its Turbo 2 and Turbo 4 tinting units. Using infrared light instead of heat transfer fluid, these units provide a more thorough heat, higher than the conventional boiling point, allowing for a superior tint process. The Turbo 6 unit uses a GL77 heat transfer fluid and features an automatic solution mixing system that prevents dye crystallization and material waste.
Phantom Research Laboratories, Inc. also offers tints for the environmentally concerned ECP. OptiSafe Lens Dye Packets hold dry concentrates that are added to hot water. They take less storage space and have a shelf life of over two years. There is no shaking or mixing required, and because they are a dry concentrate, there is no risk of leakage. In addition, OptiSafe Marking Ink Remover wipes away factory markings from all types of lenses without the harsh chemical additive acetone.
The 7Ex edging system by National Optronics has high performance features such as pre-programmed data to drill lenses and the capability to cut lenses for high wrap frames and complex frame shapes, yet it is environmentally friendly because it does not rely on traditional grinding wheels or harsh coolants that can damage equipment. Instead, the 7Ex relies on a multi-fluted cutter for edging various lens and bevel styles. Dry-cut edging helps preserve machinery by not exposing inner components to harsh chemical slurries. A powerful vacuum collects lens waste in a tank. The dry waste frees the ECP from additional steps toward swarf disposal.
Briot, by using water for cooling the company’s lens edging systems, eliminates the need for chemicals and additives. The company’s engineers have also designed the machines to require much less water during lens cutting operations. Depending on the ECP’s municipality, the water source may be plumbed or a container/pump system. Solid lens waste is collected by filters and disposed of in accordance with local laws. In addition, Briot/AIT’s airMAX filters the air during lens cutting, which eliminates the pungent odors that would normally result from processing polycarbonate and high-index lenses.
California Addresses BpA
Water has always been precious in the West, and in 1986, California enacted Proposition 65, also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. Bisphenol A (BpA) was added to the law’s list of substances known to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive toxicity. BpA is used as a starting material in the manufacture of polycarbonate, which is well known for its use composing eyeglass lenses.
On June 17, 2016, California established the maximum allowable dose level of BpA as 3 micrograms per day from dermal exposure to solid materials. Enforcement of the BpA regulation originally went into effect in California on May 11, 2016, and the maximum allowable dose level, also referred to as a “safe harbor,” becomes effective October 1, 2016.
While the law’s intent is to prevent contamination of drinking water, it is used as an educational tool to help consumers make informed choices about products containing this chemical and employees who come into contact with it in a working environment. It is imperative that ECPs who conduct business in California have a good working knowledge of Proposition 65 and future revisions through information provided by optical trade associations such as The Vision Council and other sources. Warning labels should be attached to the appropriate optical goods for public sale, and signs should be posted inside lab operations.
Proper disposal of lab waste should be of critical importance to the ECP to avoid lawsuits and fines. Swarf is a waste product of polycarbonate lens processing, and guidelines must be followed for its disposal. Swarf does not degrade, and contaminants in the material may leach into the water table and cause harm to the environment.
Fortunately, optical equipment manufacturers such as Satisloh, Schneider, FilterTech, Coburn and Universal Photonics have a variety of equipment for swarf management. A company called ReVision is also working with prominent companies in the optical industry to alleviate the problem of swarf waste as well.
Depending on the size of the practice, an effective solution can be implemented to process lens waste. All filtration systems are germane in the purpose of separating the filtered water from the wet swarf. Depending on the system and regulations, the dry waste can be further processed at a landfill. Heavy optical manufacturers can add compression systems to their swarf-management program and compress the waste from 20 to 1 in volume. Where appropriate, swarf can be shipped to various recyclers to be the raw material for new products.
Swarf control is not only smart for the environment, but it is beneficial for the lab as well. Swarf and particulates can create excessive wear on machine motors, grinding wheels and cutters. Fortunately for the ECP, choices can be made to upgrade filtration devices on existing generators and edgers. Modern filters effectively capture swarf and concentrate it, keeping slurries and coolants free from lens waste and contaminants.
One example is the Universal Generator/Edger bag from Practical Systems Inc. (PSI). The bags have a 400 micron mesh bottom and include metal rods built into the bag so it stands upright in the tank for effective filtration. In addition, the bag comes in a short version, RB-GB1 at 18 in. H x 25 in. W, and a tall version, RB-GB2 at 25 in. H x 18 in. W, allowing the ECP choices to configure to existing equipment. The bags have handles for easy manipulation of waste and a zipper opening for disposal of swarf. Being reusable, they cut consumables costs over traditional paper bags and filters.
An additional filtration option, the Universal Filter Kit by PSI, comes with a submersible pump and a canister filter with a choice of micron size filters. The pump can be configured with the RB-GB1 or GB2 reusable swarf bags. The kit can be further upgraded when combined with coolant chiller or used in conjunction with an existing chiller to extend the life of coolants in order to further lower processing costs.
BE A LABEL READER: SAFETY DATA SHEETS
Safety Data Sheets (SDS), formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), should be collected and reviewed on all chemical products the ECP is using. The ECP should inquire what products are eco-friendly and about the proper way to dispose of their waste according to their state and local requirements. Ignorance of the law does not constitute a defense in court.
Disposal information is written in a broad spectrum as these products are sold throughout the U.S. The ECP must always default to state and local laws and periodically review them for changes. Fortunately, the ECP can call local municipalities and OSHA for assistance in being compliant and eco-friendly.
SDS provide important handling information of the chemical product itself. Effects of accidental ingestion, inhalation and skin contact are just a few of the critical areas covered along with the appropriate emergency/first-aid response. SDS should be collected, bound and located in an area accessible to employees. All employees should be aware of their location and accessibility. Not doing so invites serious legal issues. Any employee who has workplace concerns regarding their health and safety can file an anonymous complaint with OSHA for investigation.
Richard W. McCoy, LDO, ABOC, NCLEC, is an opticianry instructor at Hillsborough Community College in Fort Myers, FL.
Brain Power, Inc. (BPI) • 800.225.5274 • callbpi.com
Phantom Research Laboratories, Inc. • 800.225.5559 • phantomresearch.com