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What car tyres and chewing gum have in common?

Posted November 2, 2018

Everyone likes some chewing gum once in a while. It is a great way to get some sugar, exercise your jaw and calm down a bit. It also reduces bad breath, which is also nice. But did you know that chewing gum and car tyres have something in common? And is chewing gum food?

You probably enjoy chewing gum once in a while, but do you know what is it made of? Image credit: Lusheeta via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Food is pretty much everything we consume and digest for energy. However, we don’t really consume the chewing gum – we keep it in our mouths for a while and then throw it away. So it is not that easy to say if it is or isn’t food. U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that chewing gum is actually food although one of a very insignificant nutritional value. It is because your body absorbs certain parts of the chewing gum, even though you are not supposed to swallow it. However, not everyone agrees with this description, because a huge part of the chewing gum is not meant for human consumption – it is the inedible gum base.

Gum base is typically constructed from natural and synthetic materials. Traditionally it was made from sap of various tree species, but nowadays more and more chewing gum manufacturers are using synthetic gum base, which is much cheaper to make, because some of the materials are already in use in some industrial applications. For example, butyl rubber is typically used in caulking and the lining of car tires. That is the relation between automobile tires and your chewing gum – they are made using the same material. But it is not the only industrial substance used in the gum base of chewing gum.

Paraffin wax can also be found in the chewing gum, although it is technically a byproduct of refined petroleum. Polyvinyl acetate is used very commonly in both chewing gum and white glue. Then there is a very well-known plastic called polyethylene – you know it from a huge variety of plastic products, but it is especially widely used in manufacturing plastic bags. And chewing gum, of course. But it gets even worse.

Usually when you guy a product you can quickly assess its contents just by reading the label, which is nice. You can make your own decisions, based on the materials used to manufacture the product. However, in many cases if you read the label of the chewing gum you will only find “gum base” without a further explanation of what is in it. It is because manufacturers don’t want to scare you with all those industrial-sounding materials and also because it is a proprietary information known by select individuals within each gum-manufacturing company.

In normal use, however, your body really shouldn’t get any of these chemicals – you are simply not digesting the chewing gum. But still, you should know that the tires on your car and the chewing gum in your mouth have more in common than you might think.

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