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Why doesn’t my cling wrap work the way it used to?

Last week, my mother told me, “I remember cling wrap sticking much better than it does today. Why is that?!” I, too, have noticed that these days, cling wrap seems less, well, clingy, so I thought I’d do some research on the topic. Was it just our imaginations, or was there a reason why cling wrap lost its cling?

The Dow Chemical Company began selling Saran Wrap in 1949, which at that time was made out of PVDC (polyvinylidene chloride). PVDC is a stretchy material that is mostly impervious to air and moisture, which makes it perfect for long-term food preservation. Unfortunately, however, recent research has shown that PVDC is harmful to the environment and, quite possibly, to your health.

One ingredient in PVDC is a plasticizer know as DEHA [di(2-ethylhexyl)adipate), which has been identified as an endocrine disrupter that can cause cancer. In 1998, the Consumers Union measured high levels of DEHA in cheese that had been wrapped with cling wrap made out of PVDC, which meant that the DEHA was leaching out of the plastic and into the food. Though DEHA is not regulated by the United States, it is significantly controlled in Europe due to its health hazards.

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In 1997, SC Johnson purchased Saran Wrap from the Dow Chemical Company. In response to consumer concerns over chemicals in plastics, SC Johnson changed the forumla for Saran Wrap, substituting LDPE (low-density polyethylene) for the PVDC, which eliminated DEHA in the product.

Other major brands of cling wrap, including Glad Wrap, have also changed to LDPE, but a few, like Reynolds Foodservice Film (sold at Wal-Mart and on Amazon) continue to use PVDC.

So the short answer is: yes, some cling wrap has changed. But what it has lost in effectiveness, it has gained in protecting the health of the environment and the consumer, and that’s the kind of trade-off I don’t mind at all.

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