HomeSafetyJawbreakers That Bite Back

Having studied child safety for close to 20 years now, we’ve seen a lot of odd injuries in our day. The cardinal rule seems to be: If it exists, then children will find some way to injure themselves with it. But this particular safety issue even caught us with our mouths wide open. A potential hazard so bazaar it will blow your mind.

As the tale is told, a child is enjoying a jawbreaker candy for a treat, when suddenly and for no apparent reason, it explodes in his/her mouth. The explosion knocks out some of her teeth and she suffers severe burns to the face. Impossible you say? I know it sounds like something out of a road-runner cartoon, but there are several recorded cases of just such a thing happening. SO what’s going on here?

The answer lies in how jawbreakers are made, a process which adds layer after layer of candy over a hard shell. Sounds innocent enough, and most of the time it is. But this process also creates the possibility for temperature differential, meaning the inside layers have a tendency to heat up faster and stay hot longer than the outside. When things heat, they expand, and candy is no exception. As the core heats up, it expands and causes pressure against the outer shell. If this pressure becomes great enough, it will explode like a cherry bomb. Worse yet, the molten candy is the sugary equivalent of Napalm, and causes some nasty burns.

But just how do you turn an ordinary piece of candy into TNT? Two possible scenarios. First, you microwave it. Second, if somehow a jawbreaker contains the wrong mixture of certain candy chemicals, such as caustic soda and ascorbic acid, then simply leaving it in the sun can bring it to this dangerous flash point. Such a scenario is rare, but possible based on the ingredients used. Either way, a child trying to bite into it or even licking it could cause an explosion.

So should we scare our kids with stories about killer candy? Of course not. Though you should take note of this risk and give that jawbreaker that been left in the sun some fridge time to cool off, just to be on the safe side. But this freak occurrence does bring up a not-so-freak safety issue that’s very much related: children and microwaves. Thousands of injuries are suffered each year by kids microwaving the wrong things in the wrong ways, and jawbreakers aren’t the only thing that can blow. Microwaves are often (and mistakenly) assumed to be safe, because there are no hot burners to touch. But this doesn’t make what comes out of them safe, and the food coming out can be just as dangerous as a stove top. So teach your kids this simple rule: Microwaves aren’t a toy, and they are not to microwave anything unless it’s something you’ve shown them how to microwave before. If your kids follow this one rule, you should be able to avoid any injuries from improper microwave use. Oh…and beware of those jawbreakers, or any other suspicious looking candy lurking around your children.