by Sayer Ji
February 3, 2012
The scientific literature indicates that there are at least two
dozen adverse health effects linked to exposure to mineral oil, a
crude oil derivative.
New research indicates these fat-soluble
hydrocarbons are accumulating to disturbing levels in our bodies,
and affecting newborns by contaminating breast milk.
How did they get there? Mineral oil is legally allowed to be added
to our foods, drugs and cosmetics, where they accumulate in our
bodies over time, with the highest concentrations found in our fat
One autopsy study performed in 1985, revealed that 48% of
the livers and 46% of the spleens of the 465 autopsies analyzed
showed signs of mineral-oil induced lipogranuloma (a nodule of
necrotic, fatty tissue associated with granulomatous inflammation or
a foreign-body reaction around a deposit of an oily substance),
indicating just how widespread pathological tissue changes
associated with exposure really are.
In the United States, the FDA has approved mineral for use in
cosmetic products, as well as a food additive up to 10 mg/kg a day.
For a 150 lb adult (68.03 kilograms) this is the equivalent of 680
milligrams a day, or 248 grams (over half a pound!) a year.
According to the
Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, mineral oil
may be used for the following uses in ingestible products:
Considering the fact that our food supply is now saturated through
with "food-grade" petroleum, it is no wonder that
a study published
in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology in 2008, found that,
"mineral paraffins might be the largest contaminant of our body,
widely amounting to 1g per person and reaching 10 g in extreme
In the study they took tissue samples from women undergoing Ceasarean section and found,
"concentrations varied between 15 and
360 mg/kg fat, with an average of 60.7 mg/kg and a median of 52.5
More disturbingly, milk samples taken from these same women
4 days after delivery showed,
"the same mixture of mineral paraffins
as the tissue fat at concentrations between 10 and 355 mg/kg
(average, 44.6 mg/kg; median, 30 mg/kg)."
Infants, of course, are at much higher risk for adverse effects
associated with mineral oil exposures due to their relatively far
higher body burden (lower body weight vs. chemical exposure) and
less developed blood-brain-barrier and detoxification systems in
comparison with adults.
Also, children have been found to accumulate
higher levels than adults, either due to their higher consumption of
de-dusted grains and glazing agents on confectionery products, or
their inability to detoxify it as efficiently.
It should be noted that the health risks associated with mineral oil
are not strictly theoretical. The World Health Organization
classifies mineral oils (in untreated or lightly treated
industrial-grade form) as Group 1 carcinogens to humans.1
fact sheet on mineral oil also references research from 1991
indicating that it is carcinogenic to humans.2
study published in the Journal of Investigative
Dermatology in 2009 found that commonly used moisturizing creams
containing mineral oil are tumorigenic when applied topically to UVB-pretreated
The brands studied were,
...which millions of Americans apply daily to their skin.
For additional information on natural substances which have been
shown to ameliorate adverse health effects associated with petroleum
and/or petroleum constituents, view our page on the topic.
1 - International Agency for Research
on Cancer (17 June 2011). "Agents Classified by the IARC
Monographs, Volumes 1 - 102" (PDF). Lyon, France: International
Agency for Research on Cancer. pp. 3, 19. Retrieved 11 November
2 - Hathaway GJ, Proctor NH, Hughes JP, and Fischman ML .
Proctor and Hughes' chemical hazards of the workplace. 3rd ed.
New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold.