From: Ben Ruekberg <bruekberg**At_Symbol_Here**CHM.URI.EDU>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Vaseline and oxygen
Date: October 19, 2012 11:25:33 AM EDT
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: <CAMK77sA_E1vjz7zyCoFUXPmU8J+eo80+4rTw6qH6u+R2=BKWYA**At_Symbol_Here**>

I cannot speak directly to the question you pose, but this information may bear on it.  According to rumor, the military once tried to boost the efficiency of its jets by putting liquid oxygen into separate tanks and feeding it into the engines.  This was abandoned because when liquid oxygen spilled on asphalt, the combination was a very (pressure) sensitive, very powerful explosive. 


Asphalt and Vaseline are both petroleum products and oxygen is oxygen.  I would postulate that oxygen is probably quite soluble in petroleum jelly, both being non-polar.  Over time with prolonged exposure to an oxygen-rich environment, the Vaseline would become saturated with oxygen to a greater degree than in a normal atmosphere.  Thus, the Vaseline would become a fuel oxygen mixture.  The alcohol in a wipe, on the other hand, is volatile and used in a smaller amount, and would disperse rather than accumulate.


The above is rumor and conjecture (as stated), but there may be a grain of reasonableness in there somewhere.  It may have to do until something better comes along.


Thank you,




From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Mary Beth Mulcahy
Sent: Friday, October 19, 2012 10:32 AM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Vaseline and oxygen


Just curious about this and thought some people on this list-serve might have some insightful thought on a topic I stumbled upon (and if I were still a teacher would be a fun test questions to throw at students just to get them thinking).

I had a newborn nephew who was recently on portable oxygen. At some point my sister-in-law said you aren't allowed to have perfume or Vaseline near the oxygen because it can catch on fire. This struck me as odd that she would be cautioned this way since she was using some type of solvent soaked pad to clean the spot where she was going to be putting an adhesive for the oxygen tube to be put on my nephew's face.

I have never thought of Vaseline being particularly hazardous, so of course I immediate began to consult with Dr. Google. One of the warnings I found online was:

"Never use oil-based face or hair creams, a hair dryer or an
electric razor. It is possible in certain conditions that the combination
of oxygen, oil-based toiletries and a spark from an electrical
appliance, such as an electric blanket, hair dryer, electric razor or
heating pad, could ignite and cause burns. Never use oil based hair
lubricants, face and hand lotions, petroleum jelly products, or
aerosol sprays. Always use water-based cosmetics or creams." (

I also thought found the article titled "Dispelling the Petroleum Jelly Myth" (someone posted the article in a forum found here

Then I decided to call a real medical doctor (my sister) to ask about it. She said that she doubted there was any hard evidence out there that this is a hazard, but that somewhere, someone had an accident, hospital got sued, and now it is a "risk" that is being mitigated in hospitals (including hers).

Anyone out there done experiments to try and catch Vaseline on fire? Anyone know the case where Vaseline was identified as a root cause in an accident involving a patient being burned?

Mary Beth

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