Paraffin wax has many applications, from food preservation to packaging, candle making to cosmetic usage. A by-product of petroleum or crude oil distillery, paraffin can be either basic or refined. Basic paraffin wax may contain oils and other possibly toxic ingredients. Although refined or food-grade paraffin is considered edible, the paraffin passes through the body undigested.
Basic Paraffin Wax
Basic paraffin wax is a by product of petroleum or crude oil distillation. Other ingredients may include synthetic resins and oil such as palm oil. Basic or non-food grade paraffin may be used in candle making, as an adhesive or for various industrial applications.
Refined Paraffin Wax
Refined or food-grade paraffin wax is also a by-product of petroleum refining. Impurities removed, the refined wax may be bleached. Food-grade paraffin is used as a coating to preserve produce such as apples, citrus fruits and cucumbers. It may also be used to provide a coating to hard cheeses such as Edam and to provide a glossy finish to candies. Refined paraffin may be an ingredient in chewing gum. Although food-grade paraffin is sold as a sealant for home canning, the USDA no longer promotes its use because of mold issues. Food- grade paraffin is also used as an emollient for lipsticks, lotions, and other beauty products.
Some scientific studies question the safety of paraffin wax, especially when burned. Dimethyl sulphoxide, a potential carcinogen, is an additive to some paraffin waxes. Benzene and toluene, two additional potential carcinogens, are emitted from burning paraffin candles.