From: p3wt3r <p3wt3r**At_Symbol_Here**CHARTER.NET>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Vaseline and oxygen
Date: October 20, 2012 5:50:21 PM EDT
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: <x75df88vgmq7l0fpqrwfudlb.1350769821377**At_Symbol_Here**>

Hi folks,

While I'm getting in late on the conversation, I have a few points that might be helpful, hopefully as my company is a major producer of medical oxygen and nitrous oxide.

ANY organic material that is subject to oxidation will react more readily, rapidly, and spectacularly when exposed to a strong oxidizer (i.e. Oxygen or Nitrous Oxide). For example, glycerin is perfectly stable under normal conditions, and ignites with a small amount of difficulty. Mix it with permanganate, and instead it goes boom. Similarly, exposing normal skin oils to a high pressure stream of oxygen will likely lead to skin burns or worse. Heck, normal asphalt can explode in contact with liqid oxygen and subjected to the kinetic energy of an object impacting the oxygen saturated material.

While I don't know how easily oxidized (ignited) vaseline and other lubricants may be at normal conditions of  21% Oxygen/~79% Nitrogen, its a completely different ballgame at 30%, 50%, or 100% Oxygen! Also let me note that the delivery drivers for your home healthcare provider - regardless of which company - may have your best interests in mind, but are likely not chemists, nor a trained medical  professionals. They likely have good empirical and "tribal" knowledge, but there is room for well meaning misunderstanding and misinterpretation. If you want the best information, talk to an Operations or Safety manager at the company which fills the cylinders.

At my company we strongly recommend against any volatile solvents, oils, or readily oxidized materials in the vicinity of oxygen use.  the consequences of an oxygen fueled fire are far more grave than the inconvenience of avoiding potentially flammable materials.


Todd Perkins
Regional Safety Director
Airgas USA, LLC.
Sent from my mobile phone.

Mary Beth Mulcahy <mulcahy.marybeth**At_Symbol_Here**GMAIL.COM> wrote:
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?

Beyond a intellectual curiosity on the topic, it makes me wonder how we promote safety and what we ask people to focus on. Is is scientifically based (does it need to be)? Is it a knee jerk reaction? Is it a systematic approach? The cartoon below portrays how some people I have spoken to look at OSHA regulations. The problem is that if this is the view a person has of safety regulations/standards, I believe he or she will lose faith in the regulations, potentially not following them and thus losing the benefit they can provide. (Disclaimer: I put this cartoon here not because it is how I view OSHA regulations, but because i think it can help spur conversation.)

Mary Beth

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