Are 3D Glasses Bad For Your Health?

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A funny thing happened on the way to the Vatican IMAX theater: Italy's ministry of health confiscated 7000 pairs of 3D glasses from cinemas. And they pledge to snatch away more, claiming the glasses could easily pass around "hygiene risks" if not disinfected between screenings, and that they lacked tags proving they don't cause vision problems.

That this sweeping health initiative should come so soon after the announcement of a 3D remake of Caligula by veteran Italian softcore auteur Tinto Brass is indeed suspicious -- it's perhaps the type of action taken by a nervous government after a presentation from public health officials on mass forehead-herpes outbreaks. But according to a new study from the University of California Berkeley, the Italians might well be onto something when it comes to those vision issues. And that's something Hollywood would love to sweep under the carpet.

The study found what many 3D viewers already knew: the effect causes headaches and blurred vision. That's because it forces viewers to focus on things in the foreground (which causes eyes to converge) and distance (which causes them to separate) simultaneously. The effect is called "vergence accommodation conflict," and its unwanted side effects tend to be strongest in younger people.

An irate email to the Berkeley Board of Trustees from aspiring 3D-theater-monopolist and technological cheerleader Jeffrey Katzenberg is almost certainly forthcoming ("We've performed studies on hundreds of toddlers outfitted in tiny 3D glasses, and even after 70 straight hours of Monsters vs. Aliens, the findings have been utterly inconclusive!"). As for the hygiene issue, Movieline's Special Medical Correspondent said the transmission of infection via unsanitized 3D glasses is "unlikely but possible." So if you have some antibacterial wipes handy, it couldn't hurt.

· Research Shows 3-D Movies, TV Can Cause Eye Strain, Headaches [voanews]

· Italy considers "Avatar" 3D glasses a hygiene risk [THR]



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