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Is that right? 3-D movie glasses are sanitary?

Here's an eye-opener for fans of Toy Story 3 and other 3-D movies: Those glasses you wear to get the 3-D effects may not be as sanitary as you think.

In its July issue, Good Housekeeping magazine tested seven pairs of 3-D glasses, three that were wrapped and four unwrapped, and found that none of them were bacteria-free. While most of the bacteria (collected via swabs that were sent to an independent lab), was deemed harmless, one set of glasses bore Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which can cause pink eye and other infections. (The FDA includes this staph bacteria in its Bad Bug Book.)

The magazine, which doesn't say which theaters it visited, recommends cleaning 3-D glasses with alcohol wipes or even taking them to the restroom to wash them with soap and water. A dry tissue rubdown removed some, but far from all, of the bacteria.

Even if you don't think to take any such measures, though, your risk of getting sick from movie glasses is pretty low, according to this account.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  June 25, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  General Health , Is That Right?  
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Ummm, how about a poll option for "no, I really don't worry too much about stuff like this"?

"Bacteria" is not a 4-letter word. They are a natural part of the world around us. We are surrounded by billions and trillions and gazillions of them, everywhere we go, everything we do. So I am not going to get worked up over the shocking -- shocking! -- discovery that they found some of those gazillions on movie theater glasses.

Besides: if I cared about movie theater bacteria, I'd be a LOT more concerned about everything ELSE -- armrests, railings, ticket kiosks, etc. How often do you really think those are sanitized?

Frankly, I think it's somewhat irresponsible to play up these kinds of "findings" without at least giving some sense of the relative risks involved. There are risks everywhere, in everything we do. Sensationalistic headlines that play to the "OMG we're all going to die" crowd do NOT provide helpful information -- in fact, they can harm by distracting us from more significant risks (compare: kids who got sick from movie theater glasses, vs. kids hurt in car crashes on the way to the theater). Every minute spent worrying about movie theater glasses is a minute not spent on something else that might be more dangerous.

What I need is information that helps me judge the risk involved -- how likely is my kid to be hurt, and how bad would it be if it happens? So: How many people have gotten sick from 3D glasses? How dangerous are the bacteria we're talking about (pinkeye = not something I spend much time worrying about)? Are we even focusing on the real culprit (ie, if the glasses have a few innocuous bugs, but the seat arms are teeming with bad stuff, why are we talking about the glasses?)?

Posted by: laura33 | June 25, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer, where's the voting option of "Why would I be dumb enough to worry about something like this?"?

Bacteria are EVERYWHERE!!!! They are in the air, on our skin, in our intestines, in our mouths, etc. Worrying that something has bacteria on it is just plain stupid.

Also, FYI, Jennifer, unless something is sterilized, it can continue to contain bacteria on it. Soap and water do not sterilize things and neither does an alcohol wipe.

Please stop encouraging the rampant idiocy of germophobia in this country.

Posted by: rlalumiere | June 25, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Germaphobes just make everything worse -- including bacteria -- by giving us superbugs.
You could lick those glasses and I'd probably still put them on and not catch anything but the movie.

Posted by: sarahabc | June 25, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

OMG!!!! A GERM!!! A GERM!!!

Posted by: joeblotnik49 | June 26, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

I came here to ridicule germophobes but I found joeblotnik49, sarahabc, rlalumiere, and laura33 beat me to it.

I specifically buy non-antibacterial products. Of course, I live in the real world and don't worry about "germs" all day.

Posted by: gth1 | June 26, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

I bet

a) regular eyeglasses new at the optician or, at least,
b) sunglasses in the stores

are similar.

What about the germs on regular glasses people wear?

My guess is the same or *worse* - probably much, much worse with all the contact with hands. (Think of the many, many places a pair of hands contact. Each can be a source of something, especially things many, many other hands contact: door handles, elevator buttons, etc.)

Posted by: cmckeonjr | June 26, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Although I don't worry about harmful bacteria on 3-D glasses, I agree that they are not cleaned properly. When I saw Avatar the glasses had popcorn butter smears across the lenses. I simply replaced them. But since then, instead of recycling the glasses, I simply take mine home and then take them with me for the next time I see a 3-D movie.

Posted by: ashafer_usa | June 26, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

There's a real simple solution to this problem: Next time you go to the theater, keep your glasses. Clean them thoroughly, then use them next time you see a 3D movie. Problem solved.

Posted by: jneps | June 26, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

There are risks, and there are risks.

Touching a dirty surface with the unbroken skin of your trunk or extremities is one thing.

But the area around your eyes, nose, and mouth is is a wonderful portal for all kinds of nasty infections. Special care is indicated.

I wouldn't want to rub noses with 10 random strangers in a movie theater, and I wouldn't want to share glasses with them either.

Posted by: kcx7 | June 26, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

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