Chewing gum has been around for thousands of years, according to archaeologists, although our ancestors wouldn't recognize the flavored rubbery wads that we enjoy today. Apparently the ancient Greeks chewed tree resin, Native Americans chewed spruce resin, and prehistoric people chewed lumps of tar--can you imagine the taste? Their teeth must have been black too! Modern gum began when the Mexican latex, called chicle was brought to New York City by Santa Ana in 1871. Approximately 560,000 tons of chewing gum are produced each year (560,000 x 2000 = 1,120,000,000, or 1.12 billion pounds). The amount of money spent on gum amounts to about $5 billion! Americans chew about 1.8 pounds of gum per person per year. There are many different flavors available, including bacon and meatball!
Apparently chewing gum can be good for people. Chewing sugarless gum stimulates the production of saliva, which helps prevent cavities, and gum with xylitol has an extra cavity-fighting ingredient. Some studies have even shown that chewing can help concentration by increasing blood flow to the brain by as much as 40%! Fresh breath is an added plus, from which friends, family and neighbors also derive benefit. Scientists are experimenting with adding vitamins, minerals and medicines to gum. However, some negative side-effects can also occur. Gum with sugar can contribute to cavities, but sugarless gums aren't all good either. Some people develop diarrhea, flatulence (gas), and abdominal pain. Excess chewing can lead to injury of the jaw and teeth. Swallowing too much gum can result in an intestinal blockage, although a single piece every once in a while will pass right on through.
The main problem with gum is its disposal, or lack thereof. Students only have to put their hands underneath their desks to find discarded chewing gum, dubbed gumfitti or gumpox (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gumfitti.
). The main ingredient in gum is a mix of natural and synthetic (laboratory-made) gums, which are insoluble (don't dissolve) in water. This is what makes gum very difficult to clean up. (Continued below)
Due to gumpox, chewing of gum for non-medicinal purposes is illegal in Singapore! Groups of scientists have been working on how to clean up gumfitti and may have come up with a solution that involves the use of enzymes, which are naturally-occurring molecules that break down substances. All living organisms produce enzymes, and enzymes are commonly used in laundry detergents and other cleaners, meat tenderizer, and contact lens cleaners. Another solution is the recycling of used gum. A British woman has invented Gumdrops (shown below), which she invented by first turning used gum into a foam and then extracting a polymer. Gumdrops are used to collect used gum. If you go to Six Flags in New Jersey, you can stick your used gum into one. It is estimated that the Gumdrops placed in five United Kingdom locations could save Britains $300 million (American) per year in gum cleanup costs.
Just a reminder: Gum is not allowed at Littleton Middle School! The reason is that it is found stuck in unpleasant places like the wall, inside drawers, under desks, and the water fountain. You will be able to chew gum in school once you get to the high school!
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