New study warns against phosphate buffered eyewash

In recent years, multiple reports have shown the danger of using phosphate buffered eyewash to treat corrosive damages to the eye. A new study confirms these findings. Even after only 2 minutes of rinsing with a phosphate buffered eye wash, the eye is at risk of permanent damage.

Many eyewashes are phosphate buffered

When accidents occur and you risk corrosive damage to the eyes, immediate rinsing is often crucial. In the worst case, corrosive damage to the eyes can lead to permanent damage with impaired vision or blindness as a result. Many eyewashes on the market are phosphate buffered. Phosphate has a neutralising effect on corrosive acids and alkalis, but if phosphate comes in contact with calcium ions, there is a reaction that can cause calcification. Calcium ions are commonly found at workplaces were people work with cement, concrete and lime.

Eye Specialist and Professor Dr. Norbert Schrage of the Municipal Clinics of Cologne in Germany met a patient who had got a corrosive alkaline substance in his eye. After rinsing the eye with phosphate buffered eye wash, the patient suffered corneal calcification, even though the corrosive substance did not contain calcium.

“It is known that phosphate buffered eyewash can cause corneal calcification if it comes in contact with calcium ions, but this was not the case here. Calcium ions are found naturally in the eye. Our study showed that when the cornea is damaged, these calcium ions can be “released”, and in contact with phosphate buffered eye wash, there is a risk of corneal calcification even after only 2 minutes of rinsing,” says Schrage.

What is corneal calcification?

Corneal calcification is a white precipitate on the cornea that cannot be rinsed away, and in many cases, cannot even be removed via surgical procedure, hence the risk of permanent damage to the eye. Despite this, phosphate buffered eye washes are commonly found in workplaces and industries.

Our study revealed frightening results. In my opinion, phosphate buffered eye wash should be banned and removed from the market. To eliminate the risk of corneal calcification you should use a phosphate-free eye wash. I can recommend phosphate-free rinsing solutions.


Schrage NF, Abu Sabah, Hermanns, Panfil,Dutescu RM: Irrigation with phosphate-buffered saline causes corneal calcification during treatment of ocular burns; Burns (2019) in press

Schrage NF (2010) Current Recommendations for optimum treatment of chemical eye burns. Moist swabs, compresses, phosphate buffers, and other forms of malpractice.

Schrage NF, Frentz M, Reim M. (2010) Changing the composition of buffered eye-drops prevents undesired side effects. Br J Ophthalmol 94(11):1519-1522.

Schrage NF, Schlossmacher B, Aschenbrenner W, Langefeld S. (2001) Phosphate buffer in alkali eye burns as an inducer of experimental corneal calcification. Burns 27(5):459-464.

Do you want to switch to a phosphate-free eye wash in your workplace?

Choose Cederroth Eye Wash for an optimal phosphate-free rinsing. The bottle is designed to rinse the eye with a generous flow. Cederroth Eye Wash also has the market’s longest shelf life of 4.5 years.

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