The fire hazards of flax seed oil.

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
Subject: Re: Dry Skin
From: (Douglas Wiggins)
Date: Sun, 14 May 1995 06:10:00 GMT

> few people (but there are some) that had problems with good flax oil, which has a nutty taste. About 3 weeks ago, I bought some -cut- I went and tasted the oil directly from the bottle. Tasted awful. The store I purchased the oil from had not kept the oil in the fridge.

Just a note of caution: if tempted to throw out flax seed oil (linseed oil), be careful that it does not end up on cloth or paper in a receptacle - this is the stuff that fire departments warn about when they say to avoid oily rags in the garage, as a source of spontaneous combustion (they are not referring to motor oil); flax-seed (linseed) oil was once used as a base for oil paints, and alone as a varnish, because it is a "drying" oil, which means that it reacts with the atmosphere to polymerize, forming a plastic-like material - the process releases heat, and if it is contained sothat the heat cannot escape as fast as it is generated, it can build up to burning temperatures.

Linseed oil is not the only oil which can do this - just about any oil which decomposes on contact with the air is a candidate. For instance, a lady working for The Essential Oil Company was dispensing benzaldehyde (the smell of cherries associated with oil of bitter almond) wiped up a spill with paper towels and threw the the waste into the trash; when she noticed the smell getting stronger and stronger, she started poking around to find the source and nearly burned herself - if she had been working with something that had less of an odor, she might not have discovered it before going home for the day.

Just one more tip concerning storage: if possible, keep bottles upright to provide less surface area, and use as small of a bottle as possible to contain the reactive material. Wheaton, a bottle manufacturer in New Jersey, makes something called an "amber dropping bottle" which is made of pharmaceutical brown glass with a ground-glass stopper, and the stopper has two grooves molded halfway down, while the neck has matching grooves molded halfway up - when the grooves match up, the contents can be dispensed through one set of grooves while just enough air to displace the fluid is allowed to enter through the other. Unfortunately, the grooves may be too narrow to allow viscous fluids such as linseed oil to pass easily, and they may allow very fluid materials to flow more rapidly than desired, but the concept is good.

-Douglas Wiggins, Portland, Oregon