ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Paraffin wax is flammable and should be stored in a cool, dry area. Pure paraffin wax is not considered a health risk but wax additives may be. For example, dimethyl sulphoxide has been added to some paraffin waxes and it is known that this chemical is a potential carcinogen.9

Molten paraffin wax produces an aerosol of fine droplets during processing and embedding and so can be inhaled. The inhaled wax is not absorbed by the body but attacked by macrophages in the alveolar sacs. The macrophages become large and distended due to accumulation of the oil and several may coalesce into giant cells leading to the production of a granulomatous reaction in the lungs. A low grade lipid pneumonia, which rarely gives rise to clinical disease, can develop.107


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