Even though it was just recently found out in a health study, are the excess mineral oil content in cardboard food packaging the latest public health threat?
By: Ringo Bones
First it was the undesirable side-effects of hormone-mimicking plastic softeners found in food containers and packaging like bisphenol-A that was deemed the greatest threat to public health after it was found out that bisphenol-A or BPAs were just too profitable to be banned, and now alarmingly high amounts of mineral oil that could pose a public health hazard that’s found in almost all cardboard-based food packaging. But does mineral oil really pose a public health threat?
A recent Swiss study conducted in the public health and food safety conscious EU had just obtained data that measurable amounts – up to ten times the agreed limit in fact – of mineral oil are found in food products packaged in recycled cardboard. Even though virgin cardboard that is freshly made from tree pulp contains no trace of mineral oil whatsoever, virgin cardboard is just too expensive for use in food packaging that’s commonly sold in supermarkets around the world. But should we be worried about the undesirable long-term effects of mineral oil contaminating our daily bread?
The problem is that people who had ingested enough mineral oil that necessitated medical intervention and thus observed by qualified medical personnel for symptomatic study are still few and far between. Before adequate occupational health and safety standards became universally adopted throughout the world, there had been cases around the start of the 1900s of workers in the production and packaging of mineral oil who work for a long time in an atmosphere where they inhale a great deal of mineral oil developed symptoms like those of a mild jag – often called “naphtha jag”.
First symptoms of acute mineral oil poisoning are a sense of excitement and lack of self-control, usually followed by depression, headache, nausea, roaring in the ears, irritation in the throat and a trembling in the hands and arms. If sufficient amount of mineral oil is ingested or absorbed, signs of shallow breathing, weakened heart, convulsions and death could follow.
Unfortunately, there is still no specific antidote for mineral oil poisoning. Therefore under such circumstances, the first thing to do is to wash out the stomach and give a mild laxative. Then stimulants are used in order to sustain life and the patient is then put under medical observation to check for possible organ damage.