Millions of Americans incorporate
the beauty of candles in their homes -- for celebrations, romance,
spiritual purposes and even just for relaxing. The National Candle
Association (NCA) tells us that 7 out of 10 American households use
candles regularly, and sales are increasing at 10-15% per yearÖ They
also tell us that the candles are completely safe, when used "properlyÖ"
But there are dangers in these rituals and celebrations, unless you
enjoy them with the right kind of candles.
Hereís how you use a candle properly: Keep the wick trimmed to
º" and avoid drafts and other potential disturbances from children
and pets and donít leave candles unattended. Okay, you may have
heard all that before, and those instructions are usually on the
BUT YOU NEED TO KNOW MORE
But scientists at both the University of Michigan and NASA and
reports from the Healthhouse Project of the American Lung Association
have found that some candles can emit significant, sometimes harmful
amounts of dangerous chemicals into our homes, even when used
properly. Hereís where being informed can make all the difference.
Since 1976, the Consumer Products Safety Commission has warned
the industry about the dangers of lead based wicks, and the National
Candle Association members have voluntarily done away with them
for years. But a University of Michigan study has found that lead
is still emitted from the zinc-based wick at levels that can exceed
E. P.A. air quality standards ñ a particular danger to pets, children
and vulnerable adults. There are still a few fully leaden wicks
out there in imported candles, particularly from China, according
to the U of M and a current Austrailian study. They pose the greatest
Now hereís where it gets even trickier: You may already know about
wicks, but most of us ñ and even most manufacturers until recentlyóhave
been unaware of the chemicals emitted from refined and scented paraffin
wax itself. NCA says that all of the major waxes used in candle
making are safe. But those same NASA and U of M Scientists again
differ, siting that chemicals used in the paraffin, particularly
the heavily scented ones emit known toxins, allergens and even carcinogens,
like benzene, acetone, mercury, toluene and a host of other much
harder to pronounce. The effects can be damaging to the cardiovascular,
neurological and immune systems.
BUT DONíT LET THIS SNUFF OUT YOUR CELEBRATION
SIMPLE SOLUTION #1: choose an all cotton wick over a metal core
wick (zinc, tin or lead, or chemical impregnated). You can tell
by examining the wick. You can easily see the shiny metal core or
feel a stiff core that is sometimes white that has been impregnated
with unknown chemicals, unless it is a soft, braided cotton wick.
Best choice? Buy candles that actually say "100%" cotton wick. Beeswax
candles generally use 100% cotton. Sometimes the wick is under a
wrapper or stuck down onto the candle. If you canít examine it,
buy another candle.
SIMPLE SOLUTION #2: Choose beeswax or other pure vegetable waxes
like the new soy wax candles over paraffin. Avoid scented paraffin
candles. If you have candles to use up, you will greatly reduce
its harmful emissions with proper use as above. But limit the duration
of use and ventilate the area.
FOR SCENT, GO AUTHENTIC
If you want scent in the house, use pure essential oils with a
diffuser (even a beeswax votive in the warmer) and avoid cheap air
fresheners and even incense, which also release harmful soot.
CANDLES ARE UNREGULATED
Thereís no government agency even pretending to look out for us
when it comes to candles. So now that youíre informed, itís up to
you to use your instincts. You can look at some of these studies
I mentioned by logging on to www.healthhouse.org/new/candletop.htm.
Remember: The air in your home can contain up to 500 times the
toxins of outdoor air, due to countless factors like the ones we
just mentioned. But you can systematically eliminate these very
controllable threats so your home can become a place to nourish
not only our spirit, but our physical well-being, too.