Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 2003 Nov;18(11):890-901.

Petroleum mineral oil refining and evaluation of cancer hazard.

Author information

  • 1C and C Consulting in Toxicology, Pennington, New Jersey, USA.


Petroleum base oils (petroleum mineral oils) are manufactured from crude oils by vacuum distillation to produce several distillates and a residual oil that are then further refined. Aromatics including alkylated polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAC) are undesirable constituents of base oils because they are deleterious to product performance and are potentially carcinogenic. In modern base oil refining, aromatics are reduced by solvent extraction, catalytic hydrotreating, or hydrocracking. Chronic exposure to poorly refined base oils has the potential to cause skin cancer. A chronic mouse dermal bioassay has been the standard test for estimating carcinogenic potential of mineral oils. The level of alkylated 3-7-ring PAC in raw streams from the vacuum tower must be greatly reduced to render the base oil noncarcinogenic. The processes that can reduce PAC levels are known, but the operating conditions for the processing units (e.g., temperature, pressure, catalyst type, residence time in the unit, unit engineering design, etc.) needed to achieve adequate PAC reduction are refinery specific. Chronic dermal bioassays provide information about whether conditions applied can make a noncarcinogenic oil, but cannot be used to monitor current production for quality control or for conducting research or developing new processes since this test takes at least 78 weeks to conduct. Three short-term, non-animal assays all involving extraction of oil with dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) have been validated for predicting potential carcinogenic activity of petroleum base oils: a modified Ames assay of a DMSO extract, a gravimetric assay (IP 346) for wt. percent of oil extracted into DMSO, and a GC-FID assay measuring 3-7-ring PAC content in a DMSO extract of oil, expressed as percent of the oil. Extraction with DMSO concentrates PAC in a manner that mimics the extraction method used in the solvent refining of noncarcinogenic oils. The three assays are described, data demonstrating the validation of the assays are shown, and test results of currently manufactured base oils are summarized to illustrate the general lack of cancer hazard for the base oils now being manufactured.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk