Are Your Candles Toxic?
I love a good candle, as it makes my house smell amazing and it adds a nice touch of comfort. I also love going into the Anthropologie stores as they always smell so good - don't you think? Those volcano candles rock! However, many candles can be more toxic and doing more harm than good. Depending on how the candle is made it could be filling your air with carcinogenic soot and lead emissions - yikes!
The biggest problem with candles is the paraffin wax and the synthetic oils used to create the scent. Did you know that paraffin is a petroleum byproduct? Paraffin candles will release carcinogenic soot when burned - so much for that comfort feeling it once gave. The soot is not only bad for your health but it can also build up inside your home and inside your electronics, appliances, and ductwork. In addition, aromatherapy candles that are scented with synthetic oils release microscopic particles that are believed to cause cancer and other health problems when inhaled.
Fortunately, candles made with lead core wicks were banned in 2003. Thanks to the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC), they determined that candles with a lead core released five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children. While you are cleaning out your closets, as we are all doing right about now, and come across some old candles you can test them to see if the wick contains a lead core. To determine if an unused candle has a lead wick, rub the tip of the wick of on a piece of paper, and if it leaves a gray mark, like a pencil, the wick contains a lead core so throw it out.
Currently, there are no rules or bans in the works for paraffin candles and those scented with synthetic oils. Fortunately, there are safe alternative solutions.
Buy 100 percent beeswax candles with cotton wicks, which are free of toxic chemicals. Beeswax is substantially more expensive than paraffin, so many candle manufacturers blend paraffin with their beeswax to cut costs. Be sure your candles say 100 percent beeswax on the label.
Buy candles made from 100 percent vegetable-based waxes (ex. Soy), which are also nontoxic but be sure these labels also say 100% soy or vegetable wax.
To reduce soot, no matter what kind of wicks are in your candles, trim wicks to 1/8 inch and do not burn candles in a drafty area.
Diffusers utilizing essential oils are also a cleaner safer option. There are a lot of nicely designed units in the stores now, and they actually look good as side table decor.