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Envelope Glue Explored

In general terms, most envelope glue is produced from gum arabic, which comes from tree sap. It is safe for humans and is also used in some other things we eat.
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Today's topic is a little different in that we're not going to explore some dental problem or the like. We stay in the mouth, of course (being my specialty and all), but we'll tackle something that came to mind while watching TV the other night. The topic is envelope glue and your tongue/health.

Ok, I like the show "Seinfeld." I know I'm not alone there -- it's only one of the most popular TV shows of all time. So the other night I'm watching a rerun (gotta love syndication), and it's the episode where George buys his wedding invitations. George, being George, buys the cheapest invitations possible. You fans know what happens next, but I'll reveal it for those that don't know: George's fiancée, Susan, actually dies from licking the glue on the invitations. Turns out the glue in cheap invitations is toxic.

It's funny -- reading the above, it almost sounds like a tragedy, but in the "Seinfeld" universe, it works perfectly. And hey, George didn't want to get married anyway (who could forget the "restrained jubilation" the doctor claimed he displayed upon learning of Susan's death?).

Anyway, the point of this post isn't to talk about Seinfeld, but the envelope glue. Is the glue harmful? What's in it? What if you cut your tongue and glue gets in it? Will you die, like Susan of "Seinfeld" did? And what about that e-mail rumor that cockroach eggs were in envelope glue?

To start, let's discover what's in envelope glue. In general terms, most envelope glue is produced from gum arabic, which comes from tree sap. It is safe for humans and is also used in some other things we eat (M&Ms, gumdrops, etc). The glue can also be more petroleum-based, as we can see by this answer from someone in the UK post office. But either way, it would appear that the glue is indeed safe. This goes the same if you ingest it, or if you cut your tongue while licking. Heck, you can even make your own envelope glue.

But wait: I got an e-mail forward a few months ago that said that someone licked an envelope that had microscopic cockroach eggs in the glue, cut their tongue, and now had a cockroach growing in their tongue! Oh my goodness -- that sounds like a real danger, huh? Well, like many e-mail forwards, it turns out that was a hoax as well. I got another e-mail from a helpful relative about ATM dangers, and in the list was the "fact" that someone died from cyanide being put on an ATM deposit envelope. That one turned out to be a hoax as well. I don't know -- part of me wanted to believe the cockroach in the tongue thing, too. I mean, how cool would that be? And I'd like to be the dentist to fix that!

Oh well, sorry to disappoint. Hey, I myself was hoping to find a few links about poison envelopes and lots of white papers by doctors claiming they are bad for you. Turns out, it really isn't so -- just boring old urban legends and a hit sitcom story.

However, let's not just dismiss this and have you licking envelope after envelope (not that you would run out and do that, of course). So let's talk about a few common sense things.

The first is taste. Let's be honest - envelope glue does NOT taste good to most of us. Glue of any kind tastes foul, really (okay, maybe that weird kid in third grade ate glue and liked it, but in general terms, it's something most people avoid). I don't know about you, but now that I am an adult, I generally avoid bad-tasting things. I'll choke down some cough syrup if I need to, but that's about as far as I go. Broccoli? No thanks. And since I don't like the taste of envelope glue, I avoid it and buy the envelopes with a peel-able sealing strip. I also buy self-adhesive stamps.

Secondly, envelopes are produced in factories. I'm sure that many factories strive for cleanliness, but I'm also pretty sure you don't want to eat lunch right off of where the glue is made either. I have not toured many envelope factories, so I'm just going by gut feeling here.

Lastly, let's talk sanitary. We are increasingly becoming a very sanitary society, with hand sanitizer now in store entrances and such. Think of the "dirtiest" person you know, and now think of that person licking an envelope they will send you ... ugh. And not that you're dirty, but I'm sure that given an option, your recipient will appreciate self-adhesion envelopes.

I hope this answers any questions you had regarding whether or not you'll die from licking envelopes (like Susan of "Seinfeld" did).

Until next time, keep smiling!