Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Envelope Glue Bad For You?



Short answer

While it isn’t dangerous by itself, envelope glue may be contaminated. It’s best to stick to self-adhesion envelopes.



Long answer

Rumors abound about the dangers of licking envelope glue – from dirty water being used in the manufacturing process to cockroach eggs being a part of the glue, leading to a full-grown cockroach being cut from a woman’s tongue during surgery.  Fortunately, these stories are just hoaxes aimed at scaring the general public.  The truth is, most envelope glue is made from gum arabic, an ingredient you may recognize from an M&Ms package. Gum arabic is edible and safe.  Some envelope glue is made from petroleum-based chemicals as well, but these are also safe.

Knowing that envelope glue is probably safe doesn’t mean you should start licking envelopes now.  It is still possible for small pests like dust mites to lay eggs in the glue and industrial malpractice can increase the risk of infestation and contamination of toxic chemicals and/or pathogens.  Furthermore, according to a disturbing study, around 20% of Americans do not wash their hands after using the bathroom – a number that quite possibly includes those responsible for making the envelope glue.  Another risk is getting a paper cut, which while very rare is still possible.  Lastly, people with latex allergies are at risk of having an allergic reaction when licking envelope glue if it is made with gum arabic. 

To finish off with a fun fact: You consume 3-5 calories every time you lick an envelope.

Possible short-term side effects

  • various illnesses from contaminants
  • paper cut
  • allergic reaction

Healthier alternatives

  • self-adhesion envelopes

Suggest improvement or correction to this article
Written by Jeff Volling | 05-19-2016

Written by Jeff Volling
Suggest improvement or correction

Random Page

Check These Out!