The Incognito Criminal in Your Household

Is it just me or whenever you walk past the candle section in a store your senses shift into overdrive and you walk out of there with a minor headache? I personally can not handle that particular section in stores so I tend to stay far away from it. All the artificial fragrances mixed together is surely an equation for a headache, whether it be minor or severe.

Nevertheless, a candle is so inviting and irresistable. There is nothing like creating the ambiance with a gently flickering candle. Or having such a sweet smell linger in your room, like warm cinnamon during the holiday season.

They seem so innocent. So necessary. So calming.

How would you feel about those candles burning in your room right now if I told you that everything about the candle is toxic?

I’m not kidding. That innocent, sweet smelling candle of yours is literally a toxic indoor chemical pollutant.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but my friends, it is true.

Two years ago a study came out done by U.S. Researchers who burnt a range of candles in a laboratory. Their findings are actually quite scary when I think about all the times I’ve burnt candles in my life, especially in rooms that were not very well ventilated. So what did they find? The chemicals these candles released (in harmful amounts) included human carcinogens and chemicals known to cause asthma attacks, such as toluene and benzene. Yikes!

So why do they produce such toxic fumes? For starters, let us ask the question: What exactly is in candles? The number one ingredient in conventional candles is paraffin. Paraffin is a byproduct of the oil industry. If you want to get down and dirty and really think about your carbon foot print on this earth then consider that paraffin is actually a nonrenewable resource because it’s made of petroleum. Besides paraffin, candles are made up of all kinds of artificial colors and fragrances. Here is a little list that gives you names of ingredients in the candles themselves and the chemicals they release when they burn.

  • Acetone
  • Trichlorofluoromethane
  • Carbon Disulfide
  • 2-Butanone
  • Trichloroethane
  • Trichloroethene
  • Carbon Tetrachloride
  • Tetrachloroethene
  • Chlorobenzene
  • Ethylbenzene
  • Styrene
  • Xylene
  • Phenol
  • Cresol
  • Cyclopentene

Alright, I am not going to lie. I got lost at Tricholor—-…….  Oh and by the way, some of those chemicals are actually found in paints and varnish removers.

Conventional candles can also contain wicks that are made from lead (supposed to be made from pure paper or cotton). In 2003 lead wicks were banned but they can still find their way onto the store shelves especially if they have been imported (China for example). When the lead is burned, it gives off lethal fumes as well. While it is releasing the fumes, it also creates a deadly soot. Ever notice the black circle around the top of your candle jar? Yup, that deadly soot is almost equivalent to the toxicity of second hand smoke. The tiny particles that are being released can be trapped deep within your lung and may cause respiratory irritation.

Through long burning intervals and time it can also stain your indoor decor such as ceilings, walls, furniture and drapery.

Have I got your attention yet? Have you already rushed over to your candles and blew them out frantically?

Before you start going into panic mode if you do not burn candles all the time, you are probably okay. If you are someone who burns them all the time, well, it’s best to change your candle habits and make sure the room is well ventilated.

Otherwise, it’s quite simple: Treat non food products like how you would treat your food. Meaning; do not consume or purchase anything with an ingredient list that you can not read or understand. Was I the only one who felt like I was reading the ingredient list of a box of Wheat Thins or a bag of Twinkies?

So what is the non toxic alternative to paraffin candles? Beeswax! As a matter of fact I just purchased my first beeswax candle and it is burning next to my while I’m writing this post. The scent is not strong but that of a very subtle sweet honey. It’s quite soothing.

Check out this list of beneficial qualities of a pure beeswax candle:

  • It is a natural fuel created by bees and is a 100% renewable source made from beeswax
  • Burns cleaner than any other candle
  • Burns longer with no drips
  • Emits a bright light continuosly with the same spectrum as the sun
  • Naturally scented by the honey and nectar of flowers that has been packed by the bees in the honeycomb within the hive

I think one of the coolest parts about beeswax candles is that they actually clean the air when they are burning because negative ions are being released. All the junk (dirt, dust, pollutants, etc) that is floating around in the air carries a positive charge. This positive charge is what enables them to be suspended in the air. When the positive charge hits the negative charge they become neutralized, either falling on the ground or getting sucked backed into the candle. For this very reason, the beeswax candles are effective at reducing allergies and asthma.

Wow, fits much more of that calming, innocent demeanor a candle is actually supposed to have, right?

I do have to forewarn that just because a candle may claim it is made from beeswax it is unquestionably still important to read the ingredient list. It is a sneaky world out there and many manufacturers can trick consumers into thinking their products are what they claim to be, when more often than not, they contain other ingredients as well. (You know, like when a food product claims it’s “all natural” but really it’s not!) “All natural” candles may also be made with soy. Unfortunately the soy has most likely been genetically modified. If you do not want genetically modified foods in your stomach why would you want them contaminating your air as well?

It’s best to get your beeswax candles from a local store or you can easily create your very own at home! Check out how to make them here. This is going to be my next project and will share the results with you when it happens.

How often do you burn candles? Will you change your habits now that you’ve read all about the dangers? 

Until next time,
Loriel – Healthy Roots, Happy Soul

This post is part of: Your Green Resource, Simple Lives Thursday, DIY Thrifty Thursday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Pennywise Platter

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  1. great post! we’ve been using beeswax and local soy wax candles for the past few years 🙂

    we also have a himalayan salt lamp that emits negative ions in the air, helps balance out the positive ones that are emitted at the computer etc.

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