Mineral oil paraffins in human body fat and milk

Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Feb;46(2):544-52. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2007.08.036. Epub 2007 Sep 5.


Paraffins of mineral oil origin (mineral paraffins) were analyzed in tissue fat collected from 144 volunteers with Caesarean sections as well as in milk fat from days 4 and 20 after birth of the same women living in Austria. In the tissue samples, the composition of the mineral paraffins was largely identical and consisted of an unresolved mixture of iso- and cycloalkanes, in gas chromatographic retention times ranging from n-C(17) to n-C(32) and centered at n-C(23)/C(24). Since the mineral oil products we are exposed to range from much smaller to much higher molecular mass and may contain prominent n-alkanes, the contaminants in the tissue fat must be a residue from selective uptake, elimination by evaporation and metabolic degradation. Concentrations varied between 15 and 360 mg/kg fat, with an average of 60.7 mg/kg and a median of 52.5 mg/kg. Mineral paraffins might be the largest contaminant of our body, widely amounting to 1g per person and reaching 10 g in extreme cases. If food were the main source, exposure data would suggest the mineral paraffins being accumulated over many years or even lifetime. The milk samples of day 4 contained virtually the same mixture of mineral paraffins as the tissue fat at concentrations between 10 and 355 mg/kg (average, 44.6 mg/kg; median, 30 mg/kg). The fats from the day 20 milks contained <5-285 mg/kg mineral paraffins (average, 21.7; median, 10mg/kg), whereby almost all elevated concentrations were linked with a modified composition, suggesting a new source, such as the use of breast salves. The contamination of the milk fat with mineral paraffins seems to decrease more rapidly than for other organic contaminants, and the transfer of mineral paraffins to the baby amounts to only around 1% of that in the body of the mother.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / chemistry*
  • Adult
  • Austria
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Oils / analysis*
  • Paraffin / analysis*


  • Oils
  • Paraffin
  • paraffin oils