That Plastic in chewing gums was not necessarily to be expected. Even though the major manufacturers of chewing gum kept the ingredients of their products a secret for years, the results of a study by environmental medicine expert Hans-Peter Hutter made it known: Chewing gum contains Plastic - and we chew the plastic almost every day. Around 9.7 million people₁ have stated that they chew gum several times a week. Unfortunately, very few people know that they are chewing on plastic.
In this article, you can find out how much plastic is in chewing gum, whether it is harmful to health and what alternatives we have.
What is chewing gum made of?
If a manufacturer does not advertise that it offers purely natural chewing gum, then it can be assumed that the chewing gum contains plastic. In food chemistry, plastic as a component of chewing gum is primarily justified by the fact that it no natural products are available in the necessary quantities stand.₂
To take a closer look at the ingredients of conventional chewing gum, let's take a look at a Example an:
Chewing mass, sweetener xylitol, sorbitol; thickener gum arabic, humectant glycerine, flavors, bulking agent calcium phosphates, emulsifier soy lecithin, sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame K; color E171, acidity regulator sodium hydrogen carbonate, glazing agent carnauba wax, antioxidant BHA, color E133.The ingredients of the chewing gum (Wrigley's Extra)
While all the ingredients mentioned can be clearly assigned, the term "chewing mass" is rather undefined and can basically mean anything. The fact that manufacturers such as Wrigley's insist that the composition of the chewing gum is a trade secret is unfortunately justified. This is because the chewing mass of chewing gum is not an additive, but a key food ingredient.₃
However, the aforementioned environmental physician Hans-Peter Hutter was able to confirm in his study that the chewing gum in chewing gum today consists mainly of plastic. He was able to prove that the chewing gum consists mainly of the plastics Polyvinyl ether and Polyisobutene exists.
Danger from plastic in chewing gum
How dangerous is chewing gum if it contains plastic? This question is probably floating around in your head right now, right?
In the following, I would therefore like to explain the effects of chewing gum on your health and our environment:
How does plastic in chewing gum affect our health?
Hutter's study has shown that people who regularly chew chewing gum have a higher concentration of degradation products of chemical plasticizers than people who do not chew chewing gum. This is extremely worrying, as plasticizers or phthalates have already been banned as components of toys in the European Union, as they can cause hormonal changes. Plasticizers, for example, are also the reason why the quality of human sperm has declined sharply in recent decades. This has been confirmed by toxicologists at the Federal Environment Agency. In any case, it should also be clear that the high sugar content in chewing gum has health consequences.
In principle, however, Hutter also says that the chewing mass as "Toxicologically rather unsuspicious" is considered to be safe. And as long as plastic in chewing gum is considered harmless to health, the plastic will probably continue to be contained in the chewing mass.
Environmental problem due to plastic in chewing gum
Whether chewing gum with plastic has direct health consequences for us humans or not, we will leave aside for a moment. What we can say for sure is that the plastic chewing mass causes considerable damage to the environment, as chewing gum is not biodegradable due to the plastic components and remains so forever.
Unfortunately, because many people don't know what their chewing gum does to the environment, they simply spit it on the ground or into the water. I like to compare this habit with the problem of the Cigarette butts in the environment. Around 10 billion pieces of gum are thrown on the ground around the world every day - and unfortunately cigarettes also contain plastic as well as many other harmful substances. If around 9.7 million people in Germany alone chew several pieces of gum every week, you can imagine how many of them end up recklessly in the environment.
The problem arises, for example, when animals such as fish eat the plastic and in this way Plastic in the food chain gets. The same can happen if the chewing gum slowly turns into Microplastics in the sea decomposes. Spitting out chewing gum on the streets also causes major problems when it comes to cleaning up the city. This is because a lot of energy and water is needed to clean it up.
Unfortunately, due to the plastic content, chewing gums are also suitable for Environmental problem and can ultimately have consequences for our health.
Chewing gums without plastic
Is there any chewing gum without plastic? So far, at least, I have not found any chewing gum without plastic packagingbut feel free to prove me wrong in the comments. But at least there are organic chewing gums that are certified organic and produced without plastic.
These include, for example, the organic chewing gum from ChicZa.
Cane sugar syrup*, chewing mass*, glucose*, agave syrup*, spearmint flavor* (*from certified organic origin)Ingredients of organic chewing gum Spearmint (ChicZa)
According to the manufacturer, the 100% organic chewing gum is biodegradable. This gives us a possible alternative to conventional chewing gum with plastic. You can get the chewing gums for example here*, but unfortunately not without plastic packaging.
I have basically decided to stop chewing gum. Because I can never be 100% sure whether or not it contains plastic or other harmful substances. And if I am sure, the packaging creates plastic waste again.
Should we continue to chew gum with plastic?
As you may have noticed in this article, I generally advise you not to chew gum. At least until you can safely judge 100% of the ingredients. Finding chewing gum without plastic is difficult but not impossible. However, as studies have also shown, plastic particles can also get into chewing gum through the packaging. To be on the safe side, especially when it comes to plastic in chewing gum, you should use the best possible plastic free life strive for.
In the article Hidden plastic in everyday life you'll get to know even more products where you wouldn't necessarily expect to find plastic.
Do you have any questions, tips or your own experiences with the plastic in chewing gum that you would like to share? Then I look forward to your comment.
PS.: In the article What is microplastic? you will learn all about the small plastic particles that are hidden everywhere in our everyday lives and especially in the sea.
PPS: If you would like to find out more about plastic-free everyday life, you can read my new Download the e-book Get rid of the garbage for free or here the Complete the 30 Days to Zero Waste online coursewhich will guide you step by step to significantly less waste in 30 days.
₂ RÖMPP Lexikon Lebensmittelchemie, 2nd edition, 2006.