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Close up of some glitter

Glitter describes an assortment of very small (roughly 1 mm²) pieces of paper, glass or plastic painted in metallic, neon and iridescent colors to reflect light in a sparkling spectrum. Glitter is usually sold and stored in canisters somewhat similar to salt shakers, which have openings that control the flow of glitter. These canisters may contain one or many colors. It can be permanently applied with strong glue, or temporarily applied with other sticky materials, such as makeup. It is not to be confused with confetti, which contains larger pieces, nor sequins, which are larger yet.

Glitter is used in craft projects, especially for children, because of the brilliant effects which can be achieved relatively easily. Glitter is used as an element of Christmas decorations, and can be added to rubbers and plastics. It is also often put into cosmetic products like lip gloss and eyeshadow. Glittery cosmetics are popular with youth, but are worn by adults.

Glitter was invented by Henry Ruschmann[1] on his Hereford cattle farm in Bernardsville, New Jersey. Accounts conflict as to when glitter was invented--some say 1934 and others shortly after World War II. Today the company he founded Meadowbrook Inventions is the world's leading manufacturer and supplier of glitter.

Contents

Forensics

Glitter can occasionally be used in criminal forensics, as its distinctive color, size, thickness, material and patterns can link perpetrators to victims or locations, if glitter was present at the crime scene or a related location.

Concerns

Because of its small size and durable nature, glitter is a persistent environmental pollutant. Glitter is commonly made from[2] copolymer plastics, aluminum foil, titanium dioxide, iron oxides, bismuth oxychloride and other materials. These materials are not readily biodegradable. Being heavier than water, glitter sinks to the bottom of waterways and contribute to toxic sludges. Most glitter is used only briefly. At the end of each use it is showered off, entering waste water systems, or swept up for disposal in landfill. Glitter is not recovered or recycled in any way. Because of its small size, down to 15 micrometres, glitter is often lost or spread by humans throughout their environment. Insects and other small organisms are unable to deal with glitter, as it is inedible. Larger creatures can ingest it involuntarily, allowing it to enter the food chain. Because of its metallic nature, static electricity effects can cause it to stick to body parts or habitats. Some of the oxides glitter is made with can be reactive when combined with other waste streams, particularly in water. Glitter has very sharp, hard, edges which are uncommon in nature, are also a problem for very small life. When the same material as glitter occurs in industrial situations as swarf, it is considered a hazardous contaminant, for which extensive safety measures are required. Micro pollutants in animal bloodstreams can have significant health effects.

Alternative definitions

  • "Glitter" is often used euphemistically to refer to brilliantly gorgeous but superficial glamour. From this meaning comes the term glitterati to refer to pop stars and socialites. The word is a portmanteau of "glitter" and "literati"
  • Similarly, "Glitter" is often used in online communication to describe various symbols and punctuation sometimes included in screennames. Used in this sense, it is usually pejorative.
  • Glitter graphics are animated gifs that have a glittery effect.

References

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