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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Glitter on the outside, glitter on the inside


There’s a new health hazard at Carnival. No, not nitrous oxide; that balloon’s already burst. The villain is glitter – those pretty, sparkling flakes that coat everything that moves in a mas band and seem to attach themselves to everything you own.

The writer’s flat was briefly a micro mas camp 15 years ago, and no amount of cleaning seems likely to eradicate the evidence twinkling among clothes, books and at the back of kitchen cupboards (how on earth did it get there?). No wonder it’s considered a gift to forensic investigators. But now we learn that the glitter that gives Carnival masquerade its sparkle has a dark side.

Glitter can damage people’s eyes and cause irritation, but it’s also been implicated in chemical burns from glitter-decorated phones. There’s even something called ‘glitter lung’ (and you thought the only health hazards in the mas camp were glue fumes and excessive consumption of rum).

According to a report in The Observer, some women, in a quest to release their inner princess, are inserting glitter-filled ‘Passion Dust ‘intimacy capsules’ inside them. When the pretty little pill dissolves it creates a suitably carnivalesque effect when they pee. Despite the investigative instincts of Soca News’s intrepid reporters, we cannot confirm this. However, ‘a doctor’ writes that the female body wasn’t designed to be filled with coloured flakes of plastic, which can cause irritation and worse.

There’s nothing new about this obsession with sparkle. The ancient Egyptians ground up glittery rocks such as galena and malachite to create cosmetics, and the Victorians used diamantine powdered glass on their clothes (itchy, you’d imagine). The modern glitter story began in 1934, when Henry Ruschmann invented the stuff by accident after chopping up scrap foil very fine.

Today, a lot of glitter is made out of a tiny sandwich of foil-coated plastic. That creates a big environmental problem, because, as we know, glitter doesn’t go away. It twinkles its way into rivers and the sea where it’s eaten by fish, some of which are eaten by us and, hey presto!, we’re sparkling inside… though probably not in a good way.

But all is not lost: someone has invented certifiably compostable glitter. Bio-Glitter is going to be the next big thing, and what’s more it’s British. The post-Brexit economy will be built on vast biodegradable glitter exports hurrah! Carnival will suddenly become a whole lot healthier and more environment-friendly.

Mind you, we’ll still be breathing in truck fumes all day, undergoing aural bombardment by sound systems, horns and whistles, eating dodgy chicken and drinking waaaay too much rum. But if you’re addicted to pan, soca, calypso and mas you’ve probably developed immunity to most of the hazards of Carnival. Enjoy!