Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Setting The Record Straight About The Safety of Fats, Oils, Petrolatum, Iron Oxides And Our Lungs

While I was double checking the risks of inhaling iron oxide powder, I came across this research, that states while they found no link to inhaling iron oxides and lung cancer, there is a link between occupational workers and exposure to oil mists and bladder cancer.

I followed up. The association between the mists and cancer is thought to be about contaminants in the oil.

The same is thought to be about a weak link between populations exposed to iron oxides and cancer, where there is no exact cause identified. As stated here, "there is no evidence that occupational inhalation of iron oxides alone", alone being the operative word, can cause anything more than benign lung inflammation that does not restrict lung function.

Where is this leading and what does it have to to with is blog? It has do do with half truths and misinformation on the Internet and elsewhere, being perpetrated by marketers to generate profits, by not making all of the information known on products, that may be competing with their own.

Moving on to petrolatum and mineral oil, I came across this Wikipedia entry on petroleum jelly and the section on "improper uses" leading to lipid or more properly known as lipoid pneumonia, which when you click on it, gives a definition of the two kinds there are but not the causes in detail.

The truth about refined petrolatum, including mineral oil is that it is safe to use when it is USP or cosmetic grade.

The interesting thing is that the PHA contaminants, often incorrectly associated with cosmetic grade petrolatum may not be associated with lung cancer alone for occupational workers, but may actually be a combination of high levels and another contaminant.

The most fascinating thing about all of this to me has been understanding exactly how our bodies function regarding how fats can get into our lungs and cause lipoid pneumonia, which although rare does happen and it is not restricted to the use of petrolatum or mineral oil. It can be caused by the aspiration of any fat, including vegetable oils.

First some useful definitions. Vegetable oil is defined scientifically more broadly than one would think. Aspiration simply means breathing in. I found it very helpful to get a better understanding of just how we breathe and the anatomy of the lung.

Of the types of oils that can be aspirated, animal oil causes more problems than vegetable oil, which causes more than mineral oil. The oils are not intentionally introduced into the lungs. That can result from cultural practices as well as happen accidentally through a problem with a swallowing response.

Interestingly enough, the question about lipoid pneumonia and petroleum jelly was asked on the Mayo Clinic website and the reply is detailed.

Iron oxides should not present a risk to the consumer who wants to buy small amounts to use and is careful not to inhale the powder. They are not known to be carcinogens.