Candles are a lovely way to add a beautiful, calm ambiance to your home—unless they’re toxic and cause cancer. Sound like an exaggeration? I promise it’s not.
Conventionally-made candles are packed with some of the worst chemicals available, to the point that some compare breathing the fumes of a paraffin candle to breathing the exhaust from a diesel engine.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Paraffin is the nasty by-product of gas and oil refineries. It comes out of the ground grayish and oozing, then gets bleached with chemical solvents and mixed with heavy fragrances to prepare it for use in pretty candles.
According to a study by the United States Department of Agriculture, burned paraffin candles emit many pollutants and carcinogens like benzene and toluene, each of which have been connected to cancer, asthma and birth defects.
On top of that, many candle wicks contain heavy metals like lead. Just a few hours of burning them can cause the air quality to degrade far beyond acceptable limits.
That’s not what I want in a candle!
When you burn a candle properly, you should only get carbon dioxide and water vapor, says the National Candle Association. You shouldn’t have to settle for the indoor air pollution that a paraffin wax candle produces.
The good news is: you don’t have to!
There are numerous candle varieties out there that aren’t full of chemicals. In fact, some candles (those made from pure beeswax in particular) actually purify the air by removing pollution and allergens through the emission of negative ions.
One hundred percent pure beeswax candles are also thought to provide relief of allergies, sinus problems and asthma. Intuitively, this makes sense; the cleaner the air, the healthier the people who are breathing it.
Here’s what you should be looking for:
- Candles labeled as lead-free.
- Candles that are 100% beeswax with cotton wicks. No blends!
- Candles made from 100% vegetable-based waxes.
- Essential oil diffusers to dispense scents, rather than candles.
Here’s what you should avoid:
- Candles made with paraffin wax in any form.
- Candles that produce black soot around the wick when burned.
- Candles that leave a mark like a pencil when you touch the wick to paper.
- Candles that have a metal core.