Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sham: Candle Smoke Dangerous, Carcinogenic

We love candles around our house, especially my wife. We get new ones every week-- large or small, and scented with everything from a clean pine scent (my favorite) to cherry or pomegranate. We enjoy them every evening as we wind down from a busy day.

But -- it really hit home last night how dangerous candles are, and what a health hazard they can be.

We have some cheap gold candles that must have been painted on the outside to give them a glittery appearance. When my wife blew them out and we went to bed, one of them continued to smolder for half an hour in the dark, without a flame but with the wick still red and smoke pouring into the room. When I went out later to see what the smell was, the entire house was filled with paraffin smoke. This little 99¢ candle had trashed our living room.

When I began to investigate paraffin smoke and its ingredients, I found out why my wife and I should have checked into a hotel last night instead of lying there breathing that disgusting air. Did you know that candles throw out as many as 11 different carcinogens? It's not only after you blow them out, but the entire time they are lit you are experiencing a steady stream of these compounds, generally due to the petroleum-based wax used to produce the candle. This wax is mixed with synthetic fragrance that in most cases is not even meant to be burned. Many candles have chemical fixatives added to them, synthetic glosses or "paints" as our candle had, and more.

In fact, candle ingredients are not even listed on the package, despite the fact that anyone within range inhales those ingredients when it is lit. There are so few regulations that a candle listed as "beeswax" can still have petroleum paraffin as an ingredient. Some wicks even have small amounts of lead in their core to help them burn just right, and no one regulates the amount of lead that gets inhaled during those romantic, candlelit nights. Candles seem to have bypassed the regulatory agencies in most countries, probably because many of them are purely decorative and never meant to be lit.

My advice is to stick to quality brands of plant-based wax, such as "soy" candles. And any candle, when it is extinguished, needs to be covered for some time in order to trap those huge volumes of smoky carcinogens that are released when the candle is blown out!



Anonymous said...

My 61 year old mother has just been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. I'm talking like 2 days ago! we've spent a lot of time at my parents home over the last couple of days. This evening my sister and her little boys came in with a gift for my mom. It was a jar scented candle. For at least the past 4 or 5 years, whenever I've entered my parents home, there would always be candles burning. Not just one but, many burning at once. My mom says that she likes the atmosphere that it gives. I've always thought it was dangerous...I alwasys think she's going to forget one, and leave it burning after they've gone to bed or left the house. I have been known to put out all of her candles before I leave her house. I'm still kind of in shock over this whole ordeal, but when my sister came in tonight with yet another candle, it got me to thinking....what is in these candles and what have they been releasing into the air at my parents house. I'm just grasping for answers I guess. What do you think?

Dave Jensen said...

I'd say to follow your gut feelings. If Mom doesn't put a proper lid on those candles when she blows them out, those poisons would be floating through the house every time they are extinguished.

Summer said...

I was just trying to find research studies about this and your blog came up. I recently found out about and became a designer for a company called Urban Botanic. I scent my home with their pure fragrance oils now instead of candles. I believe it's much safer but I'm still trying to find professional studies that verify even wickless candles are bad for the environment.