An unassuming chemical comprised of a mere two atoms, carbon and hydrogen, mineral oil finds itself the center of a maelstrom of myths, which target the compound with an eye on discrediting the chemical in the popular consciousness. Like the vast majority of myths however, separating out the truth from the fiction is like removing the wheat from the chaff to discover the true value of a particular statement as it relates to the ubiquitous compound that has enjoyed wide purchase since first arriving on the scene approximately around the time of the First World War.
Top Five Myths about White Mineral Oil
Mineral Oil is Carcinogenic
While it is true that mineral oil is created out of the same refining process that produces harmful impurities, notably, the carcinogenic, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, the fact remains that hundreds of materials are distilled from the refining of crude oil. Available for use in a wide-range of commercially available products from the gasoline that goes into vehicles to Vaseline that goes on a baby's bottom, white mineral oil falls on the benign spectrum of use with tight governmental oversight to ensure safe uses and practices.
Mineral Oil is Banned in the European Union
Owing to an influx of unrefined petroleum jelly from Eastern Block countries prior to 2004, exhibiting dark brown and yellow colors, the European Union moved to blocked all petroleum oils that did not adhere to best practices in terms of manufacturing processes. Indeed, the ban was placed with a notable qualification, "Classification of carcinogen need not apply if full refining process is known." As such, for this well bandied myth to hold water, it would more accurately be said, "The EU bans poorly refined mineral oil." Beyond that, the European Union accepts petroleum jelly products in the same manner as the United States.
Mineral Oil Blocks Skin from Breathing and Inhibits Detoxification
Perhaps this myth would be more credible if, as a species, humans breathed through their skin. Alas however, since the lungs and respiratory system do the brunt of the heavy lifting in regards to breathing, this part of the myth is easily debunked. Those that argue that white mineral oil somehow inhibits the detoxification process show a similar lack of anatomical knowledge. For example, the bulk of detoxification efforts occur in the liver before being carted off and disposed of in the body's urine. While it is true that some toxins are released via the sweat glands and through sloughing skin cells, one would need to literally baste themselves continuously to adversely affect the sweating process. There is no evidence that suggest applying white mineral oil has any bearing on the ability of dead skin cells to slough off as needed.
Mineral Oil Causes Skin Irritation
As mentioned, white mineral oil is a boring chemical compound that enjoys only two atoms. While the majority of chemical reactions spark via interaction with functional groups, those parts of molecules that can readily interact with the functional groups of other molecules, and white mineral oil hosts no functional groups. Like the chemical version of a wallflower at a dance, white mineral oil is non-reactive, and does not even dissolve when put into contact with water. Owing to this un-reactive response, the chemical forms an excellent layering bond with strong barrier properties. For this reason, cosmetic manufacturers, for the benign effect it has on the skin, favor white mineral oil because skin reaction is practically unheard of in people who use the formula.
Mineral Oil Causes Global Warming
As in all good myths, a seed of truth forms the foundation of the belief, and that is true regarding the statement, "white mineral oil causes global warming." While it can be somewhat argued that petrochemicals, arising as they do from the ground, are in reality a "natural" product just like any other, the truth is that it is a non-renewable "natural" resource that exacts a cost for its use in the form of global warming. Since the petrochemical industry's fingerprints are all over the global warming question, the manufacturing of white mineral oil plays a small part in the overall abuse of the environment posed by petrochemical development.