Cause of Death: Chewing Gum

In 2015, a Pennsylvania coroner discovered that the cause of death of a 21-year-old basketball player was likely inhaled chewing gum. Shanice Clark, an athlete at California University of Pennsylvania, was found unresponsive in her dormitory at about 3 a.m. on January 18, 2015. The 6-foot senior forward was believed to have inhaled chewing gum into her lungs while asleep. Aspiration occurs when a foreign body is inhaled into the airway. When you breathe, air enters your mouth and moves into the pharynx. The air then goes down into your main airway (trachea) and into your lungs. A flap of tissue called the epiglottis sits over the top of the trachea and blocks food and drink from going down into the trachea when you swallow. However, in some cases, food or drink can enter the trachea, causing aspiration. Foreign body aspiration is a common problem worldwide, with the United States accounting for approximately 2,000 deaths annually.