Saturday, 4 July 2009

Ill effects of liquid paraffin

By Syed Akbar

Medicinal liquid paraffin along with white soft paraffin and wool alcohol are used as an eye ointment to lubricate the outer surface of the eye to treat dry conditions. There are no known harmful effects when this medicine is used by pregnant or breast feeding mothers.

Ashok T Jaisinghani, nutritionist - Paraffin is known for causing cancer if taken internally. Paraffin is a petroleum product, chemically called petrolatum.

Liquid paraffin or mineral oil is a transparent, colourless, odourless, or almost odourless, oily liquid composed of saturated hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum. Petroleum was used as a medicine at least 400 years before Christ. The earliest internal use of refined petroleum appears to date back to 1872, when Robert A. Chesebrough was granted a patent for the manufacture of "a new and useful product from petroleum".

The use of liquid paraffin gained popularity, after Sir W. Arbuthnot Lane, Chief Surgeon of Guy's Hospital in 1913, recommended its use as a treatment for intestinal stasis and chronic constipation. The popularity of liquid paraffin as a treatment for constipation and encopresis stems primarily from its tolerability and ease of titration. Although conversion of mineral oil to hydroxyl fatty acids induces an osmotic effect.

Potential Health Effects

Eye: Vapours may cause eye irritation.

Skin: Prolonged and/or repeated contact may cause irritation and/or dermatitis

Ingestion: May cause gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Aspiration of material into the lungs may cause chemical pneumonitis, which may be fatal

Inhalation: May cause respiratory tract irritation

Chronic: Prolonged inhalation may cause respiratory tract inflammation and lung damage. Prolonged or repeated skin contact may cause dermatitis. May cause cancer according to animal studies.

Liquid Paraffin acts by softening and lubricating the faeces. The faeces can then move more easily through the bowel. By doing this it relieves constipation and reduces the pain of some conditions such as piles (haemorrhoids).

Flare-ups of eczema may be triggered, or complicated, by overgrowth of Staphylococcusaureus on the skin

A short course of a suitable oral antibiotic (e.g. flucloxacillin) may be appropriate in patients with physical signs of infection. However, topical antiseptics have also been suggested as a prophylactic measure. Three combination products containing an antiseptic and emollient are currently available in the UK two of which are bath emollients.

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