Mineral oil chemical structure

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Mineral oil chemical structure
Mineral oil is typically made from hydrocarbons. (three sorts of oil image by Tomo Jesenicnik from Fotolia.com)

Mineral oil has a wide variety of uses, from lubricant in pill capsules to dust control on many crops. Its specific chemical structure keeps mineral oil from being absorbed in the human body, and thus is typically used in small doses to avoid its laxative effects.

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Chemical Structure

Mineral oils are typically composed of liquid petroleum or liquid paraffin, which consists of n-alkanes and cyclic paraffins. This structure is chemically inert, and approximately 98 per cent of mineral oil is unabsorbed by the body, although recent evidence reveals 2 per cent is absorbed through the intestines and distributed harmlessly in the body.

White Mineral Oil

White mineral oil, which is a mixture of liquid paraffinic and naphthenic hydrocarbons from petroleum, is the only mineral oil approved by the FDA for human consumption as of November 2010. The percentage of allowable mineral oil varies in different food products from 0.02 to 0.3 per cent.

Mineral Oil Uses

White mineral oil is used as a release agent, binder or lubricant in products such as capsules and tablets, dehydrated fruits and vegetables and bakery products. It is also used as a dust control agent on crops such as wheat and rice.

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