Medicine: Bubble Trouble

In many a U.S. town, children vomited and complained of sore throats and headaches. To some harried parents, the explanation was as plain as the wads in their youngsters' jaws: the poisonous villain must be bubble gum.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration, recognizing an emergency when it sees one, swiftly collected 4,000 samples of gum—in all flavors—and started chewing. Seventy-five human guinea pigs, including 25 children, chomped bubble gum for periods up to eight hours. The test wads were anything from one to six sticks. For comparison, paraffin wax was also chewed.

In the laboratory, investigators analyzed the gum ingredients, fed bubble...

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