Polyvinylpyrrolidone, is everywhere but few know it

What have in common inks, hair products, paints, pesticides and toothpastes ?

An incredible substance usable in a myriad ways: basically a derivative of vinyl, a polymer with strong densification properties. One of the first applications this substance, synthesised by Walter Reppe in 1939, knew, was in hairspray, as it was easily diluted in water, even if when mixed with water the spray gave the hair a sticky aspect (later this fault was eliminated by adding silicone).

During the Korean War, polyvinylpyrrolidone was used to expand the volume of the human plasma destined for transfusions to the wounded in battle, but its most frequent use in medicine was as a coating for tablets, even if in some drugs it is used as an active antiseptic ingredient because, when it dissolves in water, it becomes extremely toxic and can kill any microorganisms instantly.

In the food industry it makes its appearance as E1201 and is used mainly as a filling, a stabiliser and a thickener; it is used for the same purpose in a variety of other products including toothpaste, shampoo, paint, pesticide and ink. It is also used to make white wine clear thanks to its ability to eliminate organic sediment.

Polyvinylpyrrolidone has been used in glue on the back of postage stamps and generally in glues activated by moistening them, in the metal-quenching process during smelting and for the production of plywood. If injected, it can cause pulmonary vascular lesions and prove lethal. In fact, despite being such a widespread component in use for such a long time, its tolerable daily intake level for humans has never been established...

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