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A Guide to White Mineral Oil and Its Uses

June 25, 2018

A Guide to White Mineral Oil and Its Uses

White mineral oils are highly refined mineral oils, and are composed of saturated aliphatic and alicyclic nonpolar hydrocarbons. They are odorless, tasteless, colorless, hydrophobic, and don’t change their color over time. The oil is biologically and chemically stable, and doesn’t support pathogenic bacterial growth, which makes it the standard choice of oil in most industries.

The Applications

White mineral oils are the best for use as a blending base for pharmaceutical products and personal care, but it is their inert nature that makes them so beneficial. The oils resist moisture, extend, soften, smoothen, and lubricate in most formulations. You can easily find NF grade and USP grade white mineral oils in most products, typically antibiotics, tissues, sunscreens, lotions, and baby oils.

The plastics industry also uses white mineral oils, typically in the product of polymers, thermoplastic elastomers, polyolefins, and polystyrene. This is done to control and improve the melt flow rate of finished polymer for releasing properties or changing its physical characteristics.

The food grade white mineral oils are used in pan oils and dough dividers to suppress dust in grain silos, and they are also used as lubricants in food-handling equipment, for controlling foam in vinegar production, beet sugar, improving the leather tanning process and in food wrapping paper to keep foods crisp in packaging.

The History

White mineral oil was first used in the 1870s when ChesebroughBrooklyin found that it was very good for healing injuries he had sustains. It then spiraled from there and was used regularly in cosmetics, food, and pharmaceutical industries. White mineral oils have been used in petroleum products and in cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries for years.

The first known white mineral oils where found in Azerbaijan, when they were pumped out of wells in the 11th century and were traded in caravans. The famous traveler Marco Polo found it in the 13th century, and even mentioned it in texts -- the use of petroleum in pharmacy and medicine. In modern times Vaseline has become an essential raw material for skincare products.

It was Chesebrough Brooklyn who had first found out that the sticky clear material he found in oil wells is great for healing skin injuries. He started to produce and sell it, and that was the first use of Vaseline, which is still used regularly in different skincare and cosmetic products today. Most people don’t know that there are more uses of petroleum, instead of it just being used as fuels in automobiles and machines. It is used heavily in the manufacture of chemical raw materials, cosmetic products, and health products, which impact directly on the health of humans.

Petroleum has also given us white mineral oil, which is one of the most frequent oils that is used and consumed in the daily lives of people all over the world.

What is white mineral oil?

White mineral oil is tasteless, transparent, colorless, non-fluorescent and oily hydrocarbon blend, which includes saturated hydrocarbons that come from the distillation of light fractions. They are used in different ways, which include refining crude petroleum. The hydrogeneration methods are also used in distillation, and this process is used to remove the Sulphur compounds, unsaturated hydrocarbons, aromatic amines, and aromatic compounds from the oil.

The best thing about while mineral oil is that it doesn’t dissolve in alcohol or water, but dissolves in organic solvents like benzene, and chloroform. It is known as white mineral oil because of its transparent and colorless structure, and goes by the name of liquid paraffin or paraffin. The oil is also labelled as pharma grade or technical based on its chemical composition.

An indispensable material for cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries

There are a lot of industries that use white mineral oil, which includes the plastics, food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics industries. In the cosmetic industry, the oil is used sole as an auxiliary or primary material in the manufacture of bath oils, depilatories, makeup removers, makeup products, sun protection creams, sun tanning products, baby oil, lotion formulations, and creams.

In the pharmaceutical industry, the oil is used in the manufacture of gelatin capsules, ointment and pomade formulations, and laxatives.

In the veterinary drug industry, the oil is used for the manufacture of animal vaccines.

The white mineral oil that is used in the drug and cosmetics industry can’t contain any hazardous substances that may harm human health and must be pharma grade. The raw materials added to the products should meet the international and national cosmetic regulations, along with pharma copies like USP/NF, PH. Eur., since the product is applied directly or indirectly on to the body. White mineral oil doesn’t stay for long in the body as it doesn’t have any chemical group, and is therefore removed from the body naturally.

It is widely used in the food industry

White mineral oil is commonly used in the food industry, and is favored in some food processes, especially in the manufacture of lubricating oils used by drink and food producers. The lubricating oil used in food manufacturing plants can come in contact with the compressor oils, gear oils, hydraulic system oils, greases, and food product. That is why white mineral oils are preferred, since they can minimize serious health risks.

All products that include white mineral oils are strictly monitored, and must obtain the necessary certificates and meet the relevant conditions.

The elastomer and plastics industry also uses white mineral oil heavily, as it is used in the production of thermoplastic rubber, polystyrene, and PVC. Apart from that, white mineral oils also feature heavily in common products like toys, glues, lamp oil, cleaning products, wood products, polishes, and glossing products. The range of products that use white mineral oils is expected to increase in the future, with growing human needs and advancing technology playing a major role in that.

There is no denying that white mineral oil is among the most common oils used and consumed on the planet, and its popularity and uses are only going to increase in the future. It is found in everything from a children’s toy, to a sunscreen cream, and is bound to be in everything that you use and consume in your daily life.

Food Grade Mineral Oil

White mineral oils are a part of the daily of people all around the world, and are commonly used in rust inhibitors, laxatives, skincare products, cosmetics, and other products. However, it is the food industry, where concern and caution related to white mineral oil is loudest. Most people are still unsure whether white mineral oils should be used in the food industry, and whether it is safe to consume. There are also doubts about the potential health risks it can cause, and that is why we are going to take a deeper look at food grade white mineral oils:

What can mineral oils be used for?

White mineral oils that are low grade are toxic, and the best thing to do is look at the different grades and viscosities of these mineral oils. That depends on their purposes, which are different in industrial, electrical, mechanical, cosmetics, and biomedicine uses.

Medical grade white mineral oils are safe to be used as lubricant laxatives, which have been used to ease constipation for people. They are great for treating chronic constipation, but the potential side effects should also be considered.

The industrial grade white mineral oils are commonly used in electric power, petroleum chemical, chemical fiber, textile, and the agriculture industries. They are used as machine lubricants.

The cosmetic grade white mineral oils are used as makeup removers or are used in skincare and cosmetic products like ointments, creams, or lotions to increase skin health.

Applications of food grade mineral oils

There are a lot of different applications where food grade white mineral oils are used, and we are going to take a deeper look at them.

1.    Food-handling applications

Food grade white mineral oils have been given the E number of E905a and are commonly used in food-handling applications. The reason for that is because they are odorless and flavorless in their properties and nature, it prevents water absorption. Therefore, they can be used as preservatives for kitchen utensils, and wooden cutting boards to stop the absorption of food odors and food liquids. They are also commonly used to lubricate food-handling equipment, polish stainless steel surfaces, and clean and maintain knives after food contact.

2.    Food additives

Food grade white mineral oils are also commonly used in the food industry. This is because they have useful properties that make them excellent food additives. They are generally used as an anti-sticking agent to stop candies sticking to each other, as a lubricating agent in food processing, releasing agent, and a de-foaming agent.

Are food grade mineral oils safe to use?

No report that has openly confirmed or stated that food grade white mineral oils are unsafe for human consumption has been found, released or published. The low grade mineral oils are considered toxic, but food grade mineral oils are highly refined and safe for use in the food industry. However, there isn’t much information about the potential side effects of white mineral oils on human health, which is why authorities have stated that they should be used and consumed in moderation with food.

The WHO has even stated that the safest dose is of 20mg/kgBW, while the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has made a more conservative safe dose of 12mg/kgBW. This clearly indicates that white mineral oils aren’t a major health threat, if you keep your daily intake below 720mg. That clearly answers the question of whether food grade white mineral oils are safe for humans. They are regularly used as food additives in the food industry, so there shouldn’t be any concern related to their use.

Differences between food grade & pharmaceutical grade mineral oil

There are differences between food grade and pharmaceutical grade white mineral oil, which is all down to the processing and refining process of the oil. There are different compounds involved, and that means there will be a mixture of different grades and weights of hydrocarbons. White mineral oils are also subjected to increased distillation to remove any contaminants like vanadium, lead, sulfur, and complex hydrocarbons like benzene to manufacture cosmetic grade, pharmaceutical grade, and food grade white mineral oils.

In its final form white mineral oils will be opaque waxes, odorless liquids and colorless. They go by their common name in the market, which are waxes, petroleum jelly, white oil, liquid paraffin, and paraffin. There are a lot of different applications of white mineral oils in different industries such as machinery lubrication, wood conditioning, scientific research, food manufacture, cosmetics, and medicine.

United States Pharmacopeia

Pharmaceutical grade white mineral oil in the United States must meet the standards set by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) standards agency. All manufacturers must ensure that they have adopted theUSP and National Formulary (NF) standards set for the production ofUSP pharmaceutical-grade drugs and chemicals. The USP states that all drugs must be tested thoroughly to ensure compliance with all regulations. The USP certification is also needed for food-grade white mineral oil, but that doesn’t extend to all types of food-grade white mineral oils.

FDA Drug Regulation

Pharmaceutical grade white mineral oil is classed as a drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The rules applied by the FDA are regarding the formulation, manufacture, and packaging of white mineral oil in the United States. If the manufacturers of white mineral oil state that their products meet the USP standards, they will be made to follow the manufacturing processes of the recent Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP). This is a system designed to measure quality control in the pharmaceutical industry, and is done to ensure that all products are properly tested for potency and purity before they are sold in the market.

FDA Food Regulation

The FDA food regulations also states that food grade white mineral oils must be approved if they are used in foods and beverages. The products can’t exceed more than 10 parts per million in any food they are added to. The Dietary Supplementary Health and Education Act of 1994 demands that food-grade products, which include white mineral must be “safe” for consumption. It is the responsibility of the manufacturers and not the FDA to ensure the safety of a product.

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