It is that time of year when more of us add candles to inspire a relaxing atmosphere, to warm the soul and light the spirit as sunlight hours slowly diminish. Nothing is more flattering to our face than being viewed within the glow of candles—it softens the history of our experiences bringing romance, harmony and peace to our homes. Filling the air with aromatic fragrances, candles make the perfect gift during the Holiday Season! Yes, candles are instant mood-modifiers and are perfect!!! Except that candles are actually filling our homes with toxic chemicals and contributing to indoor air pollution with emissions that are not worth the ambiance. Sometimes I want to stop bringing these bits of information to the surface, to take a break from being such a party pooper all the time. I want to tell you, “Go on. Enjoy that scented candle. Don’t even give it a second thought”. But I can’t. I have such a burden to keep on sharing, and educating, and working hard to get the knowledge out there that all of these regular, everyday products we fill our homes and lives and bodies with ARE JUST NOT GOOD FOR US.
I’m going to tell you why I think you need to reconsider your use of candles, but then I’m also going to share some encouraging ways to bring back those pretty scents, oh yes, and even some healthy candle options as well. Non-toxic living does NOT mean boring, un-enjoyable, avoid-everything-pleasant living, so hang with me a little while longer, won’t you, friend? First of all, let me share with you this: candle manufacturers are not required to list ingredients on the label. There is simply no control of what goes in it. And that could be absolutely anything: oil by-products, colors, synthetic fragrance or simply toxic waste that should have been disposed properly. Most conventional candles are made using paraffin wax, a sludge waste product from the petroleum industry - a source of known human carcinogens and indoor pollution. Paraffin releases carcinogenic chemicals when burned. The soot/fumes are similar to that released from a diesel engine and can be as dangerous as second-hand cigarette smoke. This can contribute to serious respiratory issues like asthma. Another common danger is synthetic fragrance used to scent candles; this commonly includes acetone, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, camphor, ethanol, ethyl acetate, limonene, linalool, and methylene chloride. The EPA studied the above listed ingredients and deemed them all potentially hazardous chemicals. Candles may have lead or lead cores in the wick, which releases dangerous amounts of lead into your home through the candle soot. Candle wicks are supposed to be made from pure paper or cotton, and lead was banned from use in wicks in 2003, but it is still present in some candles which make their way onto store shelves, particularly those that are imported. A study conducted to measure lead released from 14 brands of candles found the following; burning four metal-wick candles for two hours results in airborne lead concentrations that pose a health threat to people and pets. Those with compromised immune systems, children, pets, and the elderly are particularly at high risk. In addition, two particularly toxic chemicals, benzene and toluene, are found in the sooty residue from burning candles. Benzene is cancer-causing and toluene affects the central nervous system. Artificial scents and colors may be irritants to some people and/or trigger allergic reactions. According to one of the researchers, Dr. Amid Hamidi, “…some people who believe they have an indoor allergy or respiratory irritation may actually be reacting to pollutants from burning candles.” Other toxic chemicals that may be present in the paraffin mixture and released through burning include: Acetone, Trichlorofluoromethane, Carbon Disulfide, 2-Butanone, Trichloroethane, Trichloroethene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Tetrachloroethene, Chlorobenzene, Ethylbenzene, Styrene, Xylene, Phenol, Cresol, Cyclopentene. Some of the toxins are found in other products such as paint, laquer and varnish removers– that’s potent and powerful stuff!
Tips for Avoiding the Worst Offenders Avoid: Dollar store or super-cheap candles, imported candles (stick with ones that are made in North America), any candle that appears to have a metal-core wick, Synthetically Scented candles, Gel candles, cheap “aromatherapy” candles, from brands like Febreeze and Glade. There is actually nothing truly therapeutic about the scents in these candles and much that is harmful.
The Very Best Options for Candles: 100% Natural Candles made with safe ingredients, like Beeswax, Soy Wax, Lard or Tallow! Recently, several other vegetable wax-based candles have emerged into the market. These are absolutely pure and burn clean. Beeswax is about as natural a product as you can find. It is simply a natural wax that is made by bees and collected from the hives by beekeepers. It has a light scent of honey, which I find extremely beautiful and soothing. They can also sometimes be found with essential oils for added scent, although they are just lovely au naturel. Researchers, in a study presented at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Washington, D.C., found that candles made from beeswax or soy, although cost more, are safer because they do not release potentially harmful toxic pollutants. Only use 100 percent natural candles with a cotton wick; look for Soy, Beeswax, and Essential Oil candles - a healthy choice for your environment and our world, naturally.