5.4 Editor's Pick
June 29, 2012

Smelly Candles are…Bad for You.

Maybe not worse. But potentially just as bad.

Smelly candles are toxic.

Did you know candles, when lit, if scented, can be just as bad for us as smoking?

I love burning candles no matter the season. But many candles are unsafe. And I’m not referring the potential fire hazard…

Paraffin is the predominant wax used in the candle industry. Why? It’s very inexpensive. Paraffin is basically the “bottom of the barrel” final byproduct in the petroleum refining chain…even after asphalt is extracted. Petroleum sludge, if you will.

So it makes sense that paraffin creates indoor air pollution. The soot given off from the burning of paraffin candles is the same as that given off by burning diesel fuel. How romantic!

Some of the air contaminents in paraffin fumes include toluene, benzene, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) and naphthalene—substances found in paint, lacquer and varnish removers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that benzene and toluene are probable human carcinogens.

These “emissions” can also leave dark shadows (ghosting) or soot on the walls, furniture and in the heating and cooling system.

And beware of scented candles. Most oils used in scented candles are petroleum-based synthetics and not the natural plant-derived essential oils. The American Lung Association says, “refrain from burning scented or slow burning candles that have additives.”

Beeswax (and soy candles), on the other hand, are natural and renewable.

Not to mention more economical. While more expensive, beeswax candles burn up to five times longer than paraffin!

Here are some other cool facts about beeswax candles:

Dripless, as long maintained properly.

Cleanest burn of any candle.

The only wax that emits negative ions when it burns. Negative ions help to clean the air of dust, smoke and pollens and can help reduce fatigue.

Has its own wonderful fragrance.

Better for the environment beecause they’re smokeless and natural.

Make sure to select 100% non-imported beeswax with no lead/metal in the wick!

Labeling laws allow candles that have as little as 10% beeswax to be sold as beeswax candles. Most of these so-called beeswax candles are blended with cheap paraffin to cut costs! And, many candle wicks contain metal cores and lead! I also recommend you select beeswax that has no additives.

Tips for burning beeswax candles:

  • >>Keep wick trimmed ¼” for tapers and figures; 3/8” for pillars
  • >>It is best to burn beeswax pillars about one hour for each inch in diameter. For example, a 3” diameter candle needs a continuous burn of approximately three hours. After extinguishing the flame and the candle has cooled to warm, gently mold the edges inward with damp fingers.
  • >>For votives and tea lights, it is best to have a continuous burn. Burn both candles in fireproof containers.

As noted earlier, soy candles are another sustainable option, as long as they’re GMO-free and labeled 100% soy.

Adapted from my blog, I Count for myEARTH.

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Lynn J. Broderick  |  Contribution: 33,430