Is Chewing Gum Flammable?

This article will answer the following question: “Is Chewing Gum Flammable?”, and other important questions regarding the subject.

Is Chewing Gum Flammable?

Chewing gum can be flammable, depending on its ingredients. Normally, natural and synthetic gums are mainly composed of resin, wax, and a sweetener, which are flammable.

What is Chewing Gum?

Chewing gum is a candy designed to be chewed, but not swallowed. It’s made essentially by gum base, sweeteners, plasticizers, flavors, colors, and polyols.

They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Their specific formula is kept a secret by each gum-producing industry, as well as many of their processes. 

The only main difference it has between Bubble gum is that it is not intended for bubble blowing, but it’s only possible due to its specific formulation and crafting process.

Chewing gum often comes in three different shapes: tablets, pellets, or sticks. There are thousands of different chewing gums worldwide. Each serves its own consumer’s demands.

Gum ingredients

Gum is made from the following ingredients: gum base,  sweeteners, glycerine, softeners, flavors, colors, and polyols.

The main chewable compound is the gum base. It can be made out of natural (normally from a tree) or synthetic ingredients (mainly synthetic rubbers).

The gum base is essentially hydrophobic. It allows the product to retain its characteristics through the mastication process and is not dissolved by saliva. 

The sugar part gets in contact with the saliva, extracting it and leaving a sweet taste in our mouth, but the gum itself is not consumed, so it can stay in our mouth for a long time.

Since it’s a polymer, gum can attach itself to most things that are not water-based, which includes: school desks, hair, shoes, asphalt, etc. The gum polymers can stretch rather than break, hence why it’s always challenging to remove them from surfaces.

The other two important aspects of gum are the flavor release and the cooling sensation it supplies. They both are intimately and complexly related to the sweeteners. 

Most of the innovation processes on the chewing gum are due to the understanding of how the consumer perceives the product, and in the controlled release of flavor and sweetness through time.

History

The social habit of chewing something happens for millennia. Native folk started it independently on every continent. It’s considered a convergent evolution process since it arose in civilizations completely separated from each other.

Chewing had (and has) many purposes for humans, besides being a precursor for eating or liberating nutrients through mastication. Humans chewed different kinds of gum, depending on the natural resources in every region.

The Mayas and Aztecs are considered pioneers in the exploitation of gum. They used “chicle”, a natural kind of gum derived from a tree, as the base for gum. Ancient Chinese used Ginseng plant roots for the same purposes, and South Americans, Coca leaves.

The modern gum, although, has its commercialization started in the U.S. American Indians used to chew a fluid from spruce trees. 

The New England settlers acquired such practice and, in 1848, a businessman developed and started selling the first industrialized gum. But only 2 years later, a new kind of gum made of paraffin was developed, and gained popularity.

These early industrialized gums were not flavored. To maintain the sweetness, they need to be constantly dipped in sugar. The first flavored gum was created in the 1860s by a Kentucky pharmacist, using an extract from a balsam tree.

In the same decade, chewing gum was brought from Mexico to be used as a rubber substitute by the U.S. It didn’t work, but the chicle did succeed as a base for gum and is still in the market to this date. Nowadays, most chewing gums are synthetic rubber-based.

Gum chemistry

The complete composition of chewing gum is normally a trade secret.

We do know all the ingredients a gum can have, but not their quantity. Although, we can always assume what is the majority of the compounds.

Gum is made of organic polymers and sugar, overall. There are sugar-free versions too, but they also have a similar composition.

The polymer part has rubber-like properties, which makes gum sticky. Essentially, it can ignite/ catch fire, but only after some heating. 

Polymers are big molecules that take some time to break down in a fire. First, they need some heating to unveil their combustion capability. The heat helps enhance the molecule’s agitation and getting the oxygen molecules more willing to react in combustion.

The sugar part of chewing gum is also combustible. Alone, it is quite flammable because it’s in a powdery form. In gum, it drives the product to become more flammable, but it still can’t catch fire easily.

As you can see from this video, burning chewing gum is possible. The gum first melts, and then some of this liquid part and vapors start burning. Because gum is essentially a polymer, a lot of byproducts from incomplete combustion appear.

Although, in order to burn gum, a lot of intense heat and direct flames are required. Flammable compounds are things that can burn quickly and/ or easily, which is not the case. 

The conditions we must provide so chewing gum becomes flammable are hazardous themselves. Although, it’s always important to keep in mind that gum can catch fire, so we must always prevent it from getting anywhere near a possible flame.

Chewing gum flammability

As we said in the last chapter, chewing gum can burn, it just won’t do it so easily because the conditions for it to happen are a little unusual.

Although, there are so many labels worldwide and so many trade secrets involved that becomes impossible to state for sure that any kind of gum is flammable. Even if certain brands use the same ingredients, their quantity can interfere with the final flammability.

But here’s what we can know for sure:

  • A piece of gum is not likely to start a fire.
  • If there is a fire and there’s gum on it, the flames were probably already in there after the gum started burning, and so is the fire hazard.
  • There are many formulations of gum worldwide, we can’t assume all of them are going to behave the same.

Chewing gum wrap

Although chewing gum is not so flammable, its packing may be. It’s usually made of paper, which is almost always flammable.

As you can see in this video, it is possible to light a fire using a battery, a chewing gum wrap, and something fluffy that can ignite easily, like cotton.

The wrappings usually have a metallic-coated layer, which can conduct electricity. If a piece of the metal is plugged into the two poles of the battery, it will conduct. By putting the fluffy thing in the middle of the tape, it will start heating and eventually burn.

This happens due to the Joule effect, a condition in which a conductible material is undergoing too much electricity, so it starts heating too much. 

Conclusion

Chewing gum is not likely to start a fire unless direct flames or intense heat is applied to it, because it’s a combustible material that can retain heat. Gum will melt before igniting, which can be a problem if it drips into another source of fuel.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS): Is Chewing Gum Flammable?

Is it healthy to chew gum?

The majority of the ingredients in chewing gum is not bad for humans. A few additives (such as BHT, titanium dioxide, and even aspartame) had been pointed out as potentially harmful in animal studies, but they are not conclusive when it comes to humans.

More solid evidence points to the idea that chewing gum can reduce stress, boost memory, help us lose weight, and protect our teeth (if it’s a sugar-free version).

Is chewing gum vegan?

Some ingredients of chewing gum are not vegan. For example, gelatin, stearic acid, and glycerin are animal-derived products that can be commonly found in gum. We advise you to search for specific vegan labels before buying.

is chewing gum biodegradable?

Most artificial chewing gums are not biodegradable. They are made of a plastic-like polymer that can’t be metabolized by microorganisms, which is what makes a material biodegradable. But there are versions made with natural products that are considered biodegradable.

Citations

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gum_base
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chewing_gum
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicle
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xylitol
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/chewing-gum-good-or-bad#TOC_TITLE_HDR_6
https://www.henryschein.ca/MSDS/105L023.pdf

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Leave a Comment