Most Dangerous Games: Super Elastic Bubble Plastic.

by kara on February 5, 2016

Say, 9-year old in the 1970’s: are you tired of blowing regular old, harmless soap bubbles? Looking for something a little more psychedelic, a little more trippy? Something perhaps that will explode your brain cells one by one with poisonous fumes?

Once upon a time there was little company called Wham-O . Wham-O was the sign of a terrific toy. I wanted everything Wham-O. The very name elicited fun. A couple of University of Southern California college graduates began the company in 1948 as “WHAM-O Mfg. Co” in the family garage in South Pasadena. Wham-O.  

One of Wham-O’s most titillating toys  back in the day was something called Super Elastic Bubble Plastic. What a goddam catchy name. Why it’s genius, I tell you. I wanted it. I wanted it bad.

The package was pure insane desire in shrink wrap. Everything about it screamed: I NEED TO HAVE THIS TOY. Just look at it. LOOK AT IT. Could you resist this? This packaging is the pure creative abandon that Wham-O employed with all their toys.  First step, before you do anything else, package the shit out of it. Hire geniuses to make the packing SO enticing, So desirable. Then, if there’s a demand, outsource the production…. if it’s a dud, no problemo – you haven’t wasted money on buying the supplies and equipment yet. This “what the hell” attitude is what gave Wham-O its character and seemingly limitless variety in their product line. They threw shit against the wall and saw what stuck. Super Elastic Bubble Plastic was one of those pieces of shit that stuck

What in holy hell is this shit,  you ask, oh young one?




Well, Super Elastic Bubble Plastic came in a neat looking, toothpaste-like tube and came packaged with a tiny, cocaine-sized straw. You would squeeze a dab of the multi-colored “substance” (who knew what it was, who cared?), from the tube, roll it into a little ball, put it on end of a straw, stick the straw in your mouth and…. blow. With a little huffing and puffing, you could blow up a large plastic, brightly-colored sphere. Not like a bubble-gum bubble, but a thick, rubber ball like bubble. Carefully pull out the straw, pinch the opening shut and enjoy your new toy ball, one that you created yourself!

I was a chronic abuser of this stuff. I LOVED it. I loved everything about it. The rituals, the tiny straw, the huffing and blowing. I simply loved it. This attitude would come back to bit me in the ass 30 years later, but that’s a story for another time.

According to Wham-O, Super Elastic Bubble Plastic was made of several different petroleum-based products, including acetone (the main ingredient in nail polish remover). The rainbow colored substance in each tube of Super Elastic Bubble Plastic was actually polyvinyl acetate mixed with acetone, plus a mixture of benzene. The benzene kept the substance malleable until it evaporated, leaving behind that beautiful, rainbow bubble, and according to The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, increasing your risk of cancer, specifically Leukemia.

Australia’s Consumer Affairs outlawed Super Elastic Bubble Plastic because of “dizziness and narcosis…potentially putting an individual into a coma.” They said inhaling the “vapour” could result in poisoning. The noxious fumes could become concentrated inside the straw, making it dangerous to inhale through the straw while inflating a bubble. Users were warned to never inhale through the straw. How did that work out, unenlightened, 1970’s 9-year-olds?

For many of us. Super Elastic Bubble Plastic was a gateway drug to more serious snorting such as crystal meth. We all knew that we were huffing on intoxicating (and flammable) chemical fumes. If you are one of the Super Elastic Bubble Plastic survivors who avoided permanent brain damage or Leukemia, you remember how you’d became dizzy, and get a massive, eyes-bulging, crushing headache. We knew what we were doing.


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