Everything made from petroleum!

And today’s secret ingredient is….Everything made from petroleum!

Oils are mostly carbon and chemists know that carbon is carbon is carbon- wherever it comes from. So why is that if I rub vegetable oil on my skin for 20 years I will have soft, healthy, young looking skin; but if I rub diesel fuel oil on skin for 20 years I will be at a high risk for cancer?

To answer this and other of Life’s poignant scientific questions I went crabbing with Mark Doughty. Mark is a scientist trained in chemistry and biology. Luckily he lives right up the road in Stockbridge, Vermont. Mark’s hypothesis is this:

Crude oil is refined or separated into its many component parts through fractional distillation. You basically heat crude oil up, let it vaporize and then condense the vapor. Since different parts of the oil vaporize at different temperatures it is possible to pull the parts out of the column by weight. Heavy stuff goes to the bottom; the lighter stuff goes up to the top.

Mark hypothesizes that benzene rings and other known baddies (to mammals) are not 100% removed by the commonly used fractional distillation process. Real life is messier than that. Mark spoke of countercurrents and downdrafts within the stack and the impossibility in guaranteeing a clean product.

If he is right, his contamination hypothesis explains why nearly everything made from petroleum ingredients (almost everything we touch these days), is suspected to be tumor enhancing. And it also explains why the same exact product, when made from vegetable oil, is usually safe and nontoxic.

It is unlikely this is the sole mechanism at work here. But it does shed light onto one of Life’s little mysteries. So buy USDA certified organic when you can. It is not perfect, but USDA certified organic is the best audited natural standard on the planet. If we do not defend it, it will be quickly rendered irrelevant by the big money corporations.

This is the Soapman suggesting that we all eat more organic kale! (Now if we can only make kale foam….)

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