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Chemical of the week: Petrolatum (Pa-troll-late-tum) or Petroleum or Vaseline.

Most of us know this popular sticky, oily, feeling creamy substance, because most of us have used it in one way or another. Whether we've used it on our feet to create softer skin, our children's bottoms to protect against diaper rash, our lips to moisturize, many of us don't know the hidden dangers that lurk in each innocent looking jar.

What is petroleum?

Let's get down to the facts. Petroleum is a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons that is present in certain rock layers that is extracted and refined to produce fuels including gasoline, kerosene, diesel oil and Vaseline. So... Basically, it's...oil. Crude oil is the before, petroleum jelly is the after. It's also used to make asphalt, plastics, synthetic materials like rubber.

I can avoid using Vaseline, problem solved! Isn't it?

Petroleum is found in many skin care products such as: Hair relaxer, dyes and bleaches, baby soap, hair removers, sunless tanning products, body firming lotions, hormonal cream, facial moisturizers, anti-aging products, body lotions, around the eye creams, cosmetics, shampoo, conditioners, house hold cleaners, glycerin used in laundry and dish detergents, medicines such as aspirin, flavorings, coloring, and preservatives in food, chewing gum, other synthetic materials such as rayon, nylon, spandex, acrylic, polyester in our clothing, fertilizers, pesticides.

When properly refined, petrolatum "claims" no known health concerns. However, petrolatum is often not fully refined in the US, which means it can be contaminated with toxic chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

PAHs are a group of more than 100 different chemicals that are released from burning coal, oil, gasoline, trash, tobacco, wood, or other organic substances such as charcoal-broiled meat.

What's the damage?

Breathing petroleum vapors can cause nervous system effects such as headache, nausea, dizziness and respiratory irritation usually with household cleaners. Very high exposure can cause coma and death. Liquid petroleum products which come in contact with the skin can cause irritation and some can be absorbed through the skin. Chronic exposure to petroleum products may affect the nervous system, blood and kidneys. Gasoline contains small amounts of benzene which is a known human carcinogen. Even animals exposed to high levels of some petroleum products have developed liver and kidney tumors and stays in their systems ready for human consumption. There is evidence that occupationally exposed people in the petroleum refining industry have an increased risk of skin cancer and leukemia.

Labeled as: Petrolatum, Petroleum Jelly, Paraffin Oil, Mineral . White Petrolatum "claimed" refined is safe for use.


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