Hardly imaginable, but candles, chewing gum, cosmetics, cleaning agents, sweets and shoe creams have one common ingredient: paraffin, a waste product from the oil industry. Although the popular product is cheap and versatile, it also has negative sides. The main point of criticism is that fossil fuel oil is consumed for the production of paraffin. For the health paraffin is not necessarily beneficial. Especially when burning – such as in candles with paraffin wax – toxic gases that can even cause cancer.
Paraffin wax in candles
The burning of paraffin releases many harmful substances, including alkanes, alkenes, ketones, toluene or benzene. These are released from paraffin candles to the room air and can lead to respiratory problems and allergic reactions. In addition, according to a study of the South Carolina State University, the development of lung cancer should be promoted.
However, candle lovers do not have to do without the cozy, warm light automatically. Those who occasionally light candles and then do not allow them to burn for hours have nothing to fear according to the study.
In addition, candles with paraffin wax should not be burned in small, unventilated rooms, such as a bathroom. When removing the candle, it is advisable not to blow the wick out, but to bend over and dip into the hot wax. After firing a paraffin candle, the room should be thoroughly ventilated.
If you still want to play it safe, you are well advised to use candles made of real beeswax or soybean oil. These are not only made from renewable raw materials, but also release no detectable toxic substances when burned.
Paraffin in cosmetics
Strictly speaking, paraffin is a distillate of petroleum and thus provides the necessary fat content for cosmetic products such as face cream, body lotion and lip balm. However, the effect of paraffin on the health of the skin is controversial. Critics complain that the layer of fat prevents the skin from breathing, drying it, promoting wrinkles and depositing itself in the internal organs.
The carbon footprint of the petroleum product is also frequently criticized. Therefore, many natural cosmetics companies refrain from the ingredient paraffin in their products. However, dermatologists and chemists are unable to find any harmful effects on paraffin in cosmetics. Rather, they emphasize the almost unlimited shelf life, the low price and the good compatibility of paraffin.
The all-rounder paraffin remains controversial.
Care with paraffin oil: hand bath and creams
Since the chemical product paraffin oil is high in fat, it is particularly suitable for the care of dry skin. In professional manicure, for example, a paraffin hand bath is one of the common treatment methods. In the paraffin bath, pure paraffin is heated to about 50 degrees Celsius and the hands are immersed in the hot, liquid wax.
If the hands are covered with a thick layer of paraffin, they are removed from the paraffin hand bath and waited for the wax to dry. Due to the heat, the care substances and the fat penetrate well into the skin and thus lead to soft hands or feet.
Especially in winter, paraffin-based creams – such as milking fat – help protect the skin and lips from wind and cold. A layer of milking grease applied to lips or cheeks before skiing or a walk on the snow not only prevents the skin from drying out, but also protects against temperature loss and frostbite.
Paraffin in food
The food industry uses paraffin primarily in chewing gum, confectionery and cheese preservation. For cheese, paraffin is often used for the bark, because it protects the cheese from dehydration and makes it long lasting. Already in the 19th century chewing gum was produced on paraffin basis.
Even today, paraffin is the basic mass, the so-called “gum base” of many chewing gums. As food additive E905, purified paraffin is used as a coating agent in fruit, vegetables and dried fruits, thus helping to preserve the fruit. Also for chocolate and gummy bears, paraffin is often used to give sweets a flat, shiny surface.
Although paraffin is edible and not harmful to health, it is not absorbed by the body, but excreted undigested again. Pure, refined paraffin has hardly any undesirable properties and is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as harmless to health. Nevertheless, one should be aware before consumption that the versatile additive is a waste product from the petroleum industry.