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Linseed oil health dangers? Answered

 I frequently get linseed oil on my hands when I finish my woodworking, is it a health hazard? I sure like the smell!
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm told that linseed oil is edible until boiled. After it's boiled, it becomes hazardous if eaten (that's why you don't cook with flax oil, heat alters it). Is it a danger to the skin?

Thank you!!

P.S. I'm using genuine, pure boiled linseed oil. It's not synthetic.

I added a totally random picture, for your enjoyment. :D



6 years ago

Ok, what you need to know. There are three kinds of linseed oil: raw, modified/boiled, and polymerized/boiled. Yes, I said boiled twice, because there are 2 different types that go by the same name. Think of it like beef sausage, you go into the store, and you can get 3 kinds. You can get it uncooked, and then you can find 2 different kinds of beef, fully cooked sausages. The difference being that one is the kind you might barbeque with for a good family meal, and the other is a hot dog, with all kinds of ingredients you feel better not thinking about. Raw linseed oil takes forever to dry, but it is pure linseed oil. The polymerized is true boiled linseed oil, someone took the time to boil it in an enclosed container to make it form polymer chains. It dries faster and better than raw linseed oil, but it is still 100% linseed oil. The "boiled" oil you can buy in most places is actually mostly raw linseed oil, with plasticizers, hardeners, and heavy metals to make it act like true boiled oil, without the time and effort it takes to actually boil it; in other words, it's cheap. It's safe to eat off of, supposedly, because all the harmful stuff is encapsulated by the oil and won't migrate to food, but I wouldn't use it on anything that would touch my food, so wouldn't use it on some thing that will touch someone else's either.

I used to use it to coat my wood carvings back in the 1970s and 80s...I don't know whether its toxic, but it stinks and after a while I got seriously sick at the smell of it. Seemed to get into everything...

There is one hidden danger people often forget in this day and age....linseed oil is ~self-igniting.

You need to dispose of any rags used to apply or buff with it, because if left to their own devices in a warm environment, the rags can ignite spontaneously due to increased temperature and chemical reactions between the rag material and linseed oil.

I don't recall, but it sounds right. I used up the last of it many many moons ago and haven't looked back.

You might want to do a bit of research on this yourself, because if I remember correctly boiled linseed oil isn't actually boiled (I don't know why it's called boiled), but has some additives in it to make it perform like it's boiled.(go figure). It can contain arsenic, beryllium, cadmium and other nasties that can cause cancer and birth defects.

I also learned at fireman school that raw linseed oil dries by oxidation and gives off heat, which can cause spontaneous fires in piles of rags. ( I have not personally heard of this actually happening) but oily rags have a UN number 1856 and a hazmat guide number 133, so they can be considered a problem under the right (wrong) circumstances. I don't know if boiled linseed oil has the same problems, just that it dries more quickly.

I think the only linseed oil you can eat comes from health food stores. I don't think I would be getting too much of the other stuff on my hands.

This is from memory except for the guide numbers, so you had better double check my info.

Also, thanks for the random picture. Most enjoyable.