Glitter & Sparkalaphobia (the end of the world)

Elliot has sparkalaphobia.

Sparkalaphobia is the fear of glitter.

Glitter was invented in 1934 by Henry Ruschmann of Bernardsville, New Jersey.  Ruschmann founded Meadowbrook Inventions.  Set in the middle of a peaceful working cattle farm, the company is still a major supplier of glitter, as made clear by their slogan: “Our glitter covers the world.”

Glitter starts out as large rolls of foil or plastic and then is cut into tiny particles.  Glitter should not be confused with shimmer, which is present in various cosmetic products.  Shimmer most often begins as tiny pieces of mica, which is a type of mineral.  However, people suffering from sparkalaphobia may also feel an intense aversion towards shimmer.

There are many variations and characterizations of glitter, including color, size, shape, thickness, specific gravity (the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a given reference material), and holographic glitter (glitter particles that achieve their color through an optical effect produced by diffraction gratings, where the distance between measurable grating lines determines the color).

Because glitter is highly individualistic, along with the substance’s high probability of transfer and retention, it can occasionally be used in criminal forensics.  Its distinctive properties can link perpetrators to victims or locations if glitter was present at the crime scene or a related location.  As with other types of trace evidence, the more manufacturers there are, the better the chances of being able to discriminate between glitter particles originating from different sources.

In the paper “GLITTER as Forensic Evidence” by Bob Blackledge, he recommends that when recovering glitter from suspects, victims, and evidence, one should use Post-It Notes as opposed to tape.

The glue on transparent tape is stronger and when you try to remove the particle from the tape it might be damaged in the process, and there is also a greater chance that some glue from the tape will be transferred to the glitter particle and may confuse subsequent characterization examinations.  The glue on Post-It Notes is strong enough to remove individual glitter particles from most surfaces, and yet it is weaker, so the particles can be picked off without damage and without transferring any of the adhesive material.  The notes are also handy for writing down all the essential evidence documentation (case number, location where found, date/time, technician’s initials, etc).  If the unfolded Post-It Note is just slipped into a clear self-sealing plastic bag, the trace examiner back at the crime lab can perform a preliminary inspection using a stereobinocular microscope without even having to remove the Post-It Note from the plastic bag.

Glitter particles have been found in auto carpeting after several years and could still be compared; also true of particles found in the hair of a dead body that had been exposed to the elements for weeks.

Because of its small size and durable nature, glitter is a continuous environmental pollutant. Glitter is commonly made from materials that are not readily biodegradable.  Being heavier than water, glitter sinks to the bottom of waterways and contributes to toxic sludges.  When used on the body glitter is eventually showered off, entering waste water systems.  In other cases, like arts and crafts, excess glitter is swept up for disposal in landfills.  Glitter is not recovered or recycled in any way.  Because of its small size, glitter is often lost or spread by humans throughout the 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 and also a problem for very small life.

Even using the smallest amount of glitter can result in an eternal sparkling curse.  Personally, I can recall a slumber party my roommate and I hosted four years ago for our friend Allison’s birthday.  During a surprise late-night visit from Cadillac French, the flamboyant alter ego threw a handful of silver star-shaped glitter onto the birthday girl inside of our apartment.  To this day I still find the tiny specimens stuck within the cracks of our floorboards and underneath the cushions of our sofa.

Some say cockroaches will survive the end of the world.  I think all that will be left is glitter.

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