Monday, May 29, 2006

All about liquid paraffin

By Syed Akbar

Liquid paraffin as purgative
1. It is harmful to consume liquid paraffin internally as a purgative.
2. It may cause cancer if used repeatedly (proved only in animal studies).
3. Not recommended for children, pregnant women and breast feeding mothers.
4. Active adults may use liquid paraffin internally. Those with little mobility should not use it.

Liquid paraffin is harmless as skin ointment
1. Liquid paraffin in neither acidic nor alkaline with pH value being neutral.
2. It is cheaper and efficient skin emollient.
3. Can be used on tender skin of babies as young as one month.
4. Doctors all over the world have been using liquid paraffin for nearly 100 years.
5. No country in the world has banned liquid paraffin as an skin ointment.
6. No research has ever shown liquid paraffin to cause cancer. It has no carcinogenic agents.
7. Best source of smoothing agent for persons with dry skin and cracked skin.
8. It is better than coconut oil.
9. It can be mixed with water for bath.
10. Liquid paraffin is nothing but a petroleum product, technically known as petrolatum or mineral oil in layman's language.
11. It is transparent, colourless, and odourless.

Side-effects of liquid paraffin
1. No major side-effect except causing skin rashes in extremely sensitive persons.
2. In persons with oily skin liquid paraffin may cause inflammation of hair follicles.
3. It may cause acne in persons with oily skin.
4. Liquid paraffin may cause hair splits if mixed with coconut oil.


The Food and Drug Administration of Maharashtra government has kicked off a row when it declared that liquid paraffin will cause cancer as it contains carcinogenic agents. The FDA even issued notices to leading pharmaceutical companies including Johnson & Johnson, Himayala, Himani and Wipro for using liquid paraffin in baby oil.
Senior dermatologists in the city question the FDA's unilateral action in declaring liquid paraffin as carcinogenic. They wonder if what the FDA says is true, why have not the USA or European countries banned liquid paraffin. Several leading US pharmaceutical companies use liquid paraffin as base in their products.
"This is the first time we are hearing about the presence of so-called cancer-causing agents in liquid paraffin. It is absolutely safe as an skin ointment. We have never received any complaints against any drug with liquid paraffin as its base or one of the constituents", points out a senior official of the State Drug Control Department.
Stating that the controversy is needless, senior dermatologist Dr Satyanath Patnaik says liquid paraffin can even be applied safely as an eye ointment. Liquid paraffin is used in opthalmology as a lubricant for the outer surface of the eye to treat dry conditions. There are no known harmful effects when this medicine is used by even pregnant or breast feeding mothers.
Dr Patnaik wonders what had prompted the FDA, Maharashtra, to declare liquid paraffin as carcinogenic. "We recommend liquid paraffin very often. In fact, we conducted a research on liquid paraffin. We found it absolutely safe on skin. Even babies can use it", he clarifies.
Though there have been no known serious reactions to liquid paraffin, dermatologists suggest that only persons with dry skin use it as a soothing or moisturising agent. It may like any greasy agent cause foliculitis if used excessively.
Consultant dermatologist Dr Sukhruta Reddy says the fears of FDA are unfounded. Liquid paraffin is absolutely safe when applied externally. In some persons, it may cause eye irritation and its prolonged and/or repeated contact with the skin may cause irritation including dermatitis. "This is quite normal. Even coconut oil if applied extensively will affect the skin as it leads to the growth of bacteria.
LP plays as a natural barrier and helps in the healing of cracks", she points out.
Since LP is non-greasy with a neutral pH value it can be applied safely on the skin even on tender skin of babies. "We even ask patients to add LP to bath water. Allergic reactions are very rare. In sensitive patients it may block sweat pores as it acts as an occlusive. Harmful steroids can be made safer by adding them to liquid paraffin", Sukhruta Reddy clarifies.
Dermatologists in the country use LP liberally, says Dr G Manmohan, assistant professor of dermatology, Osmania Hospital. "I far as I know no country in the world has banned LP. Many pharmaceutical companies in the USA and Europe use LP in their products. We have been using it for decades in our hospitals with no reported cases of cancer. It is cheaper and non-toxic. It is useful for persons with dry skin. In persons with oily skin it may cause skin infections. Excessive use may lead to foliculitis.", Dr Manmohan observes.