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Mineral oil sources, health risks

Saturday, November 04, 2017 by

Mineral oil is a highly refined, odorless, and colorless liquid distilled from a mineral source, usually crude petroleum. Also known as paraffin oil, mineral oil has a wide array of uses both by itself and as an ingredient in other products. This lightweight, inexpensive fluid can be purchased as an over-the-counter remedy for constipation, skin and scalp conditions, and ear wax buildup. In addition, mineral oil is often added to personal care products, medication, pesticides, cleaning products, and is even utilized as a lubricant base oil in the production of other oils.

Harmful effects that can be caused by mineral oil

One of the most common uses for mineral oil is as a lubricant laxative. Mineral oil helps treat constipation by moisturizing both the stool and the insides of the bowels to ease the passage of stool. For this purpose, mineral oil can be bought in liquid, oral form, or as an enema. Despite its widespread use as a constipation remedy, there have been numerous health problems associated with mineral oil.

Taking too much mineral oil can result in diarrhea, which can then lead to dehydration and the loss of electrolytes and important nutrients like potassium. Mineral oil can cause other gastrointestinal problems such as stomach cramps, nausea, and gas; in the most severe cases, rectal bleeding and bowel movement failure can occur. Large doses of mineral oil have been linked to anal seepage as well. Furthermore, taking mineral oil within two hours of eating is not recommended as this liquid has been found to impede the absorption of nutrients and hinder the digestive process.

Children who are swallowing mineral oil for constipation are most at risk of accidentally inhaling it. The aspiration of mineral oil can cause respiratory distress and pneumonia.

Although considered rare, mineral oil allergies can happen. Those who are allergic to mineral oil will typically experience breathing difficulties, rashes, breathing difficulties, and swelling of the mouth, face, lips, and/or tongue shortly after using mineral oil.

Mineral oil can be harmful to individuals with certain health conditions, these include persons who have:

  • Appendicitis
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Digestive problems, such as intestinal blockage or severe stomach pains
  • Eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney problems

Mineral oil shouldn’t be taken by those on blood thinners. Since this liquid can restrict the absorption of vitamins and minerals, it can prevent the body from properly absorbing vitamin K, a vitamin that plays a critical role in blood clotting. Taking mineral oil with blood thinners can cause the blood to thin out too much, which can then lead to excessive bleeding.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have issued warnings against mineral oil usage due to the fact it can accumulate in human tissues with frequent ingestion. For their Toxicological Evaluation of Certain Food Additives, both organizations noted that the storage of mineral oil in human tissue “is considered to be undesirable and exposure to mineral oils should be kept to a minimum.

Body systems harmed by mineral oil

Since one of the most common uses for mineral oil is as a treatment for constipation, it can harm the digestive system, especially when used regularly and taken in great amounts. Mineral oil has the potential to hurt the respiratory system too.

Where to learn more


Using mineral oil as a laxative can be risky for many reasons. Too much mineral oil can cause various digestive issues such as diarrhea, nausea, and anal seepage. Mineral oil can interfere with the body’s absorption of nutrients, and can even interact with blood thinners.

Mineral oil should never be inhaled since doing this can lead to respiratory problems.

Mineral oil isn’t recommended for people with kidney problems, heart disorders, appendicitis, and digestive issues due to the side effects associated with its usage.

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