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It's been called the "most fabulous form of protest," but according to one medical expert, the potential dangers of "glitter bombing" are far from marvelous.
In an increasingly popular form of protest, activists are throwing glitter on unsuspecting targets. Dubbed "glitter bombing," the sparkly stuff is often meant to protest a politician's opposition to same-sex marriage.
In the past month, Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have all been hit with the shimmery specks.
But Stephen Glasser, an optometrist in downtown Washington, tells ITK that while they might seem harmless, glitter bombs can cause real damage: "If it gets into the eyes, the best scenario is it can irritate, it can scratch. Worst scenario is it can actually create a cut. As the person blinks, it moves the glitter across the eye and can actually scratch the cornea." Although not likely, it can even cause a potential loss of sight.
That's almost what happened to one of Glasser's patients, who was out at a New Year's Eve soiree where partygoers were tossing glitter around: "It literally scratched not the cornea, but the white of the eye ... [S]ince [glitter isn't] exactly what you'd call sterile, there's not only a chance of a scratch, but giving the person an infection."
And it's not just the eyes that glitter bomb victims have to worry about.
"If the person's breathing in, it can be drawn up into the nose and into the sinuses and cause one hell of an infection that's difficult to get rid of because it's literally an object ... that highly irritates the tissue," says the doctor.
In a TV interview last summer, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee called glitter bombing "an assault." The former Arkansas governor added that the glitter-throwing activists "ought to be arrested."
Glasser, who has practiced in D.C. for more than 30 years, uses similar language in describing the medical impact: "Leaving politics out of this completely ... it's like throwing a custard pie in their face. You're not going to blind them with it. But with this type of metallic, sharp-edged material, one could almost consider it an assault."
While Glasser says with a chuckle that the best type of protection against glitter bombs would be to wear sunglasses, goggles or even a helmet - call us crazy, but we don't see that happening for politicians anytime soon- he maintains that getting glitter in your eye is no laughing matter, saying it would "stop that individual from performing their daily duties. Between the pain and the changes to their vision, it would certainly stop them from doing their work properly."