Paraffin wax is a manmade wax alternative to beeswax, soy wax and kerosene. Paraffin wax is used to make candles and in the manufacturing process of a variety of things including space shuttles, makeup and medical ointments. Those who handle paraffin wax, be they manufacturers or hobby users, should consider the safety of paraffin wax.
Paraffin wax fumes may have some carcinogenic properties, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, most paraffin wax used in candles does not contain enough carcinogenic substances to be hazardous. Though they will likely not cause long-term damage, fumes can cause irritation in the lungs, nose, throat and eyes.
Melted paraffin wax can cause thermal burns, according to Newport Glass. If paraffin wax has burned your skin, wash the burn with clear cool water and call a doctor as soon as possible. Do not use very cold water as it can cause nerve damage. Do not try to remove the wax on second- or third-degree burns as you may remove the skin with it. If it has not caused your skin to burn, paraffin wax is not a primary irritant and it will only cause irritation for those with sensitive skin.
Paraffin wax is usually not toxic if it is ingested. Paraffin wax is generally ingested by accident, by a child or on the top of birthday cakes that have had candles in them. In most cases it is sufficient to simply call your doctor to confirm that nothing needs to be done to counteract the ingested paraffin.
If paraffin gets in your eye, flush your eye with clear water and contact a doctor. Paraffin that has not melted does not normally damage the eye and will only cause a mild irritation. If melted and hot paraffin gets in your eye, immediately contact an emergency room.
If you are working with paraffin wax, there are several safety precautions to consider. If you are heating paraffin, there is the possibility that it could boil heavily. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from the melted paraffin and fumes. Wear clothes that protect your skin from melted wax.
- Photo Credit candle image by Amjad Shihab from Fotolia.com
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