Parents warned about the dangers of paraffin

A Fredericton doctor is advising parents they may want to clean their house out of liquid paraffin. She says that while the fuel may look nice in a candle and smell good, some children have been drinking it, thinking it was juice.

Paraffin, which comes from the distillates of wood or petroleum, can be more toxic than gasoline. Most bottles of it carry warning labels. But there's often no warning on the candles that the liquid goes into.

Lynda Finnamore of New Brunswick says her 16-month-old granddaughter, Catherine, almost died after swallowing oil from a decorative candle.

"She was coughing. It was like she couldn't catch her breath."

"It spreads so very quickly that it only takes less than a teaspoon," says Dr. Barbara Bulleid, who treated Catherine at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton before the girl was airlifted to Halifax. Bulleid says the little girl's chances for survival were less than 50 per cent.

Bulleid treated three other similar cases, including one child who died last summer. Today, she's treating another child admitted last Friday.

She's written the Canadian Pediatric Society to see if it can help get the message out that paraffin oil may seem benign but it's actually lethal.

"In fact, if it's a home with children in it, I think all paraffin candles should be thrown out."