Documentation:Paraffin Wax Fume Exposure

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Paraffin Wax Fume Exposure

After the braided cotton wick is submerged in the chemicals or inorganic salt solutions in the process of primary manufacturing, it is then dipped into heated paraffin to build layers that will allow the wick to stay upright and stiff [1]. Paraffin wax fume is a chemical hazard examined and studied by the Occupational and Safety Health Administration. Paraffin is solid, colourless to white and odourless [2]. According to OSHA, exposure routes include inhalation, skin and/or eye contact [2]. Also, paraffin is flammable if a source of ignition is present and the solution is highly heated [2]. Paraffin wax fume is present when the paraffin solid is heated [2].

Health Impacts

Short Term

Inhaling paraffin wax base causes irritation of the eyes and the respiratory tract especially for sensitive people [3]. Also it can cause acute to severe nausea depending on the person [3]. Paraffin wax base in contact with the skin is dangerous because it can cause serious burns [3]. Also, direct contact of paraffin wax fumes to the eye can cause irruption [3]. Additionally, thermal burns can occur if the melted product itself gets in the eye [3]. Overall, short term symptoms after exposure to paraffin wax fumes include irritation of the eyes, skin, respiratory system, overall discomfort and nausea [3].

Long Term

Repeated or prolonged exposure can target the eyes, skin and respiratory system causing long term damages [3]. Research showed that a rat who chronically ingested paraffinIn showed accumulation of the substance in the liver and spleen [3]. This model can be generalized to humans to some extent. In addition, chronic exposure to the inhalation of paraffin wax fumes can cause severe coughing, sputum production, exertional shortness of breath, possibility of pulmonary damage (lipoid pneumonia) and alveolitis and interstitial fibrosis [3].

Measurements and Exposure

Air Samples

Collection of paraffin wax fumes are done by drawing a known volume of air through a glass fiber filter [3]. Then the samples are desorbed with Carbon Disulfide, and later on the gas chromatography analyzes the sample using a Flame Ionization Detector [3].

Exposure Limits

The current OSHA standard for paraffin wax fume is 2 mg/m3 [3].


Administrative Controls

In order to avoid any ignition of paraffin which releases the fumes, store the paraffin in a cool area where it is protected from any source of ignition or chemicals [3]. Also, always keeping the paraffin in solid form when not in use is an efficient way to minimize the fume levels in the environment. Allow workers to only work with paraffin when they are in well-ventiliated areas such as a ventilating hood [3]. Additionally, paraffin is odourless so it is difficult for workers to identify by themselves if there is a high levels in the air. As a result, frequent measurements of paraffin can help the workers to be aware of the surroundings and make actions accordingly. Last but not least, educating the workers to avoid skin contact with the fume and wearing safety glasses can also reduce accidents [3].

Personal Protective Gear

Paraffin is mostly handled when it is molten so advising workers to wear protective clothing such as splash-resistant fabrics, thermal gloves and safety glasses can prevent accidents and minimize hazards [3]. If sufficient ventilation is not present, workers should use appropriate respiratory protection gear.


  1. Millington, Deborah. Tradition Candle-making: Simple Methods of Manufacture. Intermediate Technology Development Group of North America, 1992
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15