What you need to know before you lick your next envelope

There’s a classic Seinfeld episode titled “The Invitations,” which likely spurred many of our first realizations that licking envelopes may be a bad idea. Post Show Recap describes how character George skimps on the wedding invitations in the episode, leaving fiancé Susan to do all the licking and sending. Next thing we know, Susan has died at the hospital –from toxic glue on those invitation mailers. 

Years later many of us still have a deep distrust of envelope glue, but apparently it isn’t the glue itself that is bad for us. Is It Bad For You’s Dr. Thomas Dwan explains, “While it isn’t dangerous by itself, envelope glue may be contaminated. It’s best to stick to self-adhesion envelopes.” Explaining further, he explains that most scares about glue are just rumors. The glue itself is made of gum Arabic, a substance you’ve already eaten if you’ve ever had M&Ms. What you can’t control, however, is possible contaminants from dust mites to toxic chemicals to a worker who may not wash their hands. 

Share sentiments not saliva

While the first concern is taking care of your own safety, it’s also a good idea to think of the person to whom you are sending your licked envelope. Bacteria and viruses can be transmitted through surfaces, although even highly contagious viruses have a limited life on surfaces without a host (via Stat News). The same publication points out, however, that “the fewer the virus particles on a surface, the lower the chances that someone touching it will become infected.”

And while mail doesn’t appear to be a major source of transmission (via UCI), that doesn’t mean anyone wants to get that close and personal with your saliva, which has long been a source of viral transmission and spread in many common colds and flus. Furthermore, mono is called the “kissing disease” for a reason. There’s no reason to risk sharing sickness, no matter how minimal, when the problem can be solved with a simple sponge and some water.

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