I used to make fun of advertisements for cleaning products that promised to keep your home sterile, based on lessons I had learned from my late grandmother about how over-sterilization leads to more infection. More and more doctors are coming on board and agreeing that a sterile environment ultimately weakens the immune system. When you go abroad and everyone is just fine but you suddenly get sick, it’s precisely because of this over-sterilization. However, I have come to have second thoughts about this but particularly to one aspect of life — going to see films and presentations where you are given 3D movie glasses.

I never gave much thought to the 3D glasses I put on my face when going to see films and specials in 3D. There are a few shows at Disney World that are in 3D including the excellent Muppet Vision 3-D which is an exquisite seventeen minute show. Everything had to be ruined by a recent study by The Good Housekeeping Research Institute:

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute tested seven pairs of movie theater 3D glasses, both wrapped in plastic and unwrapped, and found a number of germs, including those causing conjunctivitis, skin infections, food poisoning, sepsis and pneumonia. One was even contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, the most common cause of staph infections.

Gross. I couldn’t stop thinking about how all of the 3D glasses were supposedly being cleaned in between screenings and yet not a single pair that was tested was remotely sterile. I was already hesitant to see films in 3D after reading a scathing review of the technology in general from Roger Ebert.

There is a mistaken belief that 3-D is “realistic.” Not at all. In real life we perceive in three dimensions, yes, but we do not perceive parts of our vision dislodging themselves from the rest and leaping at us. Nor do such things, such as arrows, cannonballs or fists, move so slowly that we can perceive them actually in motion. If a cannonball approached that slowly, it would be rolling on the ground.

I still do enjoy going to see short shows like Muppet Vision 3D when I can, though. I just don’t relish the idea that I may be putting big collections of germs on my face. I was heartened by something I read a little bit later in the article.

While potentially dangerous, Staph is “ubiquitous in the environment” and would be found in many non-sterile surfaces, says Dr. Christopher Ohl, associate professor of medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Its presence doesn’t necessarily lead to infection.

Moreover, I had already decided that we could just bring our own 3D glasses that we kept clean. There was a 3D film we saw a few years ago where they gave the glasses to people to keep as part of the price of the ticket. Why use someone else’s dirty glasses when I can just bring my own clean ones?


  1. This is an important, topic, Gordon! It only makes sense that 3D glasses shared with strangers, and “cleaned” by a movie house — will more likely than not be — unclean. The eye is a precious thing and when you have something so close to it like a glasses lens — the more you cringe thinking who before you happened to be peering through the same glass darkly.

  2. I see on Amazon you can buy $200.00 “rechargeable” 3D glasses. Looks very keen. I think the movies and the home LCD screens use different glasses, right? I definitely think the way to go is to buy your own.

    1. David,

      Those $200 glasses only work if you have the correct TV set at home. I do see that they have new 3D glasses like the ones they have in the theater for under $10, though! 🙂

  3. This is nothing new. With the previous 3-D craze, generations ago, eye infections led to disposible “glasses” being made available. Unfortunately we appeared to have forgotten that lesson.

    1. I believe they were trying to avoid filling landfills with said glasses. There are ways to properly clean these glasses they are just choosing not to do it, unfortunately.

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