COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Norwegian officials are asking the public for helping cleaning up and mapping “large amounts” of paraffin wax found at the entrance to the Oslo Fjord, a narrow inlet south of Norway’s capital.
Officials have not identified the source of the grains of white wax. Rune Bergstroem of the Norwegian Coastal Administration said they think the wax came from a boat “but we currently have no reports of ship accidents from which this may originate.”
The agency had the wax analyzed and tests showed it is a “pure” paraffin variety with a low volatile chemical content, according to Bergstroem. Authorities theorized on that basis that the puzzling pellets resulted from "a specific discharge, for example when transported in tanks,” he said.
Paraffin wax is chiefly used to make candles.
“Even if it is not directly toxic, it is important to clean up. Paraffin wax acts as a laxative and could have an unfortunate effect on for instance children, birds, etc.,” Bergstroem said in a statement.
When it gets hot, “it will melt and evaporate. Inhalation of gases from this is harmful to the lungs. But since the melting point is so high, it will not melt in a human or bird if swallowed,” he added.
Municipalities along the fjord are responsible for cleanups and could seek reimbursement from the Norwegian government if the source of the pollution is not identified.