Are your candles hazardous?
Candles have been a part of our rituals and celebrations for more than 5,000 years. So how could something so ingrained in our day-to-day actually pose a health risk?
Examine the wax ingredients
Wax candles are often made from the petroleum byproduct paraffin, vegetables (think soy or coconut), animals, and/or insects. Beware that some candles may mention just one ingredient, like soy, but may be blended with other ingredients such as petroleum. Additional ingredients are often added for color, fragrance, stability, or to modify the burning characteristics.
Take note: Burning anything indoors will probably pollute your indoor air. But burning petroleum-based candles is more likely to emit toxic fumes such benzene and toluene. Chronic exposure can contribute to damaging the brain, lungs and, central nervous system; it can also lead to developmental difficulties such as cancer, allergies, and asthma.
Candlewicks are often made of metal, cotton, or a blend of both. Metal candlewicks help keep the wick standing straight when the surrounding wax begins to melt. Sometimes wicks consist of several thinner wicks that are braided together. While the U.S. candle manufacturing industry agreed to discontinue using lead in wicks by 1974, some candlewicks still contain lead. They have been shown to sometimes contaminate indoor air with lead in concentrations above EPA-recommended thresholds.
“Fragrance” is a red flag. The concern is that most scents can be concocted from any combination of thousands of chemicals that companies can use. Most ingredients are not disclosed, not proven safe, and made of petrochemicals. Of the relatively few ingredients studied, the test results raise concern.