Scotch tape. Unhealthful?
February 19, 2007 7:14 PM   Subscribe

What is the nature of adhesives in adhesive tape? I have a regional bigwig who suggests that our use of double-faced tape should be discontinued because the adhesive contains sugars that might host bacteria. These tapes anchor seasonal / promotional tags to regular food service signage.
posted by namret to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
More details on the type of tape?
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 8:08 PM on February 19, 2007

You list three type of tape here:
1. Scotch tape. (clear, thin, one-sided)
2. adhesive tape. (opaque, fabricky, white, used to hold gauze pads onto wounds)
3. double-sided tape. (there are two kinds I know: clear, thin; and opaque, white, puffy - 1 mm thick)

One thing to try would be to go to the website of the tape manufacturer (for example, 3M, who make Scotch tape). They may have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for their products, which might say what the adhesives are. But they will almost certainly have a customer phone number that you can call and ask if the tape is rated safe for use in food service environments.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:14 PM on February 19, 2007

Call the manufacturer, as LobsterMitten suggests. The chemical companies that make adhesives (3M, Dupont, Dow, BASF, etc) absolutely have MSDSs for their materials. I would start with 3M.
posted by janell at 8:17 PM on February 19, 2007

Use archival-quality tape then -- it can't contain any sugars, since that would ruin the "archivalness" of it (encouraging microbes/bugs = not good for archives).

...I have no idea if normal tape contains sugars (I doubt it), but archival tape won't.
posted by aramaic at 8:17 PM on February 19, 2007

I'm not sure what specific adhesive you're using, but this MSDS lists the ingredients of 3M (presumably the basic Scotch, dated 1985) adhesive tape as:

1 Pressure sensitive acrylic adhesive
2 Neoprene
3 Polyethylene
4 Silicone coated paper liner

None of which seem like they would sustain life very well (plastics). In the scientific literature, I found some mention of a modified forms of these polymers (Polyethylene glycol) which can be metabolized by bacteria, but a terminal alcohol group needs to be present.

I think your signs are safe, although I'm not sure if the ingredients I found are the same as in the product that you're using. If your boss is really concerned, google brings up a few (mostly silicone-based) food-grade adhesives. Most of them are liquid/caulk form, though, instead of double-stick tape.
posted by twoporedomain at 8:18 PM on February 19, 2007

Your regional bigwig has probably heard third-hand about bacteria on double-sided tape being an issue in hospitals.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess than unless people are licking your food service signage (or stealing the tape to secure their catheters) your use of double-sided tape isn't a danger.

Still, as others have said, calling the manufacturer will give you much better information.
posted by stefanie at 8:20 PM on February 19, 2007

I wanted to point out that most people aren't aware that there are bacteria on everything. Even "sterile" instruments in an operating theater aren't completely free of bacteria; they just have a lot fewer than normal stuff.

Bacteria are a normal part of our environment. Or at least many kinds are. Some are dangerous but the vast majority are somewhere between benign and beneficial.

"OMG Bacteria!" is the sign of someone who's been reading alarmist literature.

[There's been a rise in the rate of asthma among young people in the last few decades. One theory is that it's the result of excessive use of disinfectants in home cleaning products. As a result, the kids' immune systems aren't being routinely challenged, and when they finally do react they over-respond.]
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:47 PM on February 19, 2007

Contact 3M. Don't ask them, "What is the nature of adhesives in adhesive tape?" Ask them, "I'm running a grocery store, and I need to use double-backed tape in close proximity to food products. I'm worried about bacterial growth in the adhesive. Which of your products is correct for this job?"

They'll tell you, you'll buy some, and you'll be done.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:13 PM on February 19, 2007

Once again ikkyu2 has it...listen to him.
posted by mmascolino at 5:52 AM on February 20, 2007

Thanks to all. Since we seem to stock only 3M double-faced Scotch brand tape, I have emailed 3M with the question and will follow up with a phone call this week. Requesting the MSDS is also a fantastic idea.
posted by namret at 4:37 PM on February 20, 2007

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