Are Candles Toxic? What is the Safe Option?

What is really lurking in scented candles?
I loved candles. I used to lo going to a particular popular candle store to get new scents to go with the seasons. Right now I’d be drooling over “pumpkin pie” or “apple cinnamon”.
Plus, nothing is more relaxing than the soft flickering glow of candle light to set the mood from romance to peaceful solitude.
Nothing will kill the mood faster than knowing scented candles are poisoning your health and your family’s.

What’s wrong with scented candles
  • Candle wax is made from petroleum-derived paraffin, petroleum is a well known carcinogen and air pollutant
  • They are scented with synthetic fragrances, also derived from petroleum. Synthetic fragrances contain hormone-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates (source)
  • Candle wicks are often made with  metals like tin, zinc, and even lead
  • Soot. This is the result of incomplete combustion of petroleum based fuels (source
The health risks 

When the petroleum based candles are burn, all the toxins are released into the air polluting our home with fine particles. These particles make their way to our lungs and stick around hitching a ride in dust particles.

The pollution emitted can cause indoor allergy symptoms Phthalates have been be found to be linked to an array of issues. According to the EWG these include: Childhood obesity, asthma, infertility, reduced testosterone concentrations, and, most worrisome, abnormal development of reproductive system in baby boys (source). Lead micro particles are released into the air. There is no way to know what percentage of lead wicks contain, but according to this report if they are 95% lead they would emit was is regarded as the maximum level of lead children and adults should be exposed to over the course of one year. Lead, as we know, is a we know is a neurotoxin. The soot emitted can be hard to determined, the EPA has stated that the diffrence between one candle to the next can be as high as 100 times the amount of soot. Soot can be particularly damaging for developing fetuses, even the smallest amount of lead can enter their system as placenta offers very little protection against lead. Lead, in developing fetuses, can cause from learning disabilities and behavioral problems to miscarriage or severe damage to the central nervous system.

Better alternatives
A well known alternative to toxic paraffin candles are soy candles. I am on the fence about these. According to reports I have read almosy 98% of the soy produced in the US in genetically modified. Many reports and articles I read while researching this subject suggested buying non-GMO soy candles, but non suggested specific brands. I could not find any soy candle brand that specifically stated the use of non-GMO soy. GMO soy is not the only problem, many soy candles are a combination of soy and paraffin, so unless clearly labeled as 100% soy, I’d stay cleared of them.
Opt for 100% pure beeswax candles like these.
The best alternative are beeswax candles, better yet if they are local. They are the most natural wax you can find, and they also burn clean. They seem to be a bit pricier but last the longest so it is all relative. Most are find in the pure state, releasing a subtle hint of honey aroma that I personally adore; but you can find beeswax candles that have added scent by using essential oils or in different colors–just make sure only natural dyes and scents were used. Another option is to make your own beeswax candles. My friend Loriel at Healthy Roots, Happy Soul has a great tutorial here.
Even when using candles made with natural wax it is best to burn candles in ventilated spaces and to keep the wicks trim. If you like candles as a way to scent your home you might like this homemade orange cinnamon air freshener by The Darling Bakers.

About Stephanie

Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom to her curly-haired two year old son, a nursing student, dog lover, and yoga enthusiast. She loves to share her tips on making green and healthy living attainable to families getting
started in the wonderful world of eco-consciousness. She believes in
real food and living as natural as possible…and why not, leaving behind a
better planet for our children.

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