Which Candles are Safe for Your Health? And What Candles are Toxic?
Author: Sandy Abram Date Posted:9 June 2019
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They look beautiful and they smell divine. But don’t let looks and smell fool you. You might think that buying a candle is simple but there’s more lurking to that perfumed scent and flickering flame in a jar. With some being harmful to your health...
Hands up if you have a tealight or two dozen in your home? The chances are, you do. Candle sales have been soaring with candles a big part of people’s health, beauty and wellness routines. Or if you’re anything like me, they are big part of a nightly ritual once the kids are in bed. There are so many choices when it comes to candles; sizes, colors and flavours and they can be relatively cheap meaning we buy them by the handful. We place them in our bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and living rooms and light them all over our homes.
But as with so many things, buying things cheaply and conveniently comes at a price.
Often, these types of candles are made using cheap paraffin wax, which is a by product of the petroleum industry, or in other words, petrol.
Do we really want petrol burning as we relax in the bath?!
And it isn’t just what the wax is made from. Some wicks contain lead and many scented candles only smell lovely because they’ve been made with artificial fragrances that are actually quite nasty. And considering we often burn candles in small rooms, and around our children and furry friends, we’re potentially burning harmful candles with our most precious babies in the room.
So here’s our guide to buying the best candles with the most loveliest of scents and a smoke free burn.
Soy vs Paraffin vs Beeswax
The best candles to look out for are made using 100% GMO free (genetically modified organisms) soy wax. Soy wax burns clean and you won’t be filling your home, or your lungs, with potentially deadly smoke, dangerous pollutants or staining your walls and ceilings with black soot.
Burning paraffin wax releases a toxic mix of chemicals into the air, including benzene and toluene, both of which are known carcinogens (cancer forming chemicals).
Some studies have shown that inhalation of these dangerous pollutants could contribute to the development of health risks like cancer, common allergies and even asthma.
Soy is a natural plant, and candles made with soy wax are made using the oil extracted from soybeans. The beauty of soy wax isn’t just in it’s clean burn, either. Soy wax candles last longer, up to 50% longer, than paraffin wax candles. So although they seem more expensive, they’ll be in your home for much longer.
They burn evenly too, so you won't get that ‘mushrooming’ effect you see with cheaper paraffin wax candles, and they won’t leave a greasy residue on their glass holders. (So you can use their holders again to make your own candles or to hold cut flowers or pens and pencils!)
Soy wax candles also release their fragrances more easily too, meaning they smell stronger.
They don’t require as much heat to burn as paraffin so they’re safer and won't have pools of molten wax absorbing all those gorgeous fragrances.
Watch out for soy ‘blend’ candles. These more than likely contain ‘some’ soy and the rest paraffin wax. Choose candles marked as 100% soy instead. If in doubt, the manufacturer website may help and if you’re still unsure, don’t buy that brand.
If a candle is 100% GMO free soy wax, they will be proud enough of their products to tell you!
A quick note on beeswax - some soy candles are blended with beeswax. Beeswax is a natural substance that burns as beautifully and as cleanly as soy wax. But if you’re a vegan who avoids all animal products, then stick to 100% soy wax.
All of this means that soy candles are kinder to you and your family (including your four legged, furry family members) and to the environment as they’re less polluting and made from renewable, plant based sources.
Another big no no are wicks containing lead. Thankfully now, most candles are made with lead free wicks but some still do exist that contain this dangerous heavy metal.
Burning a wick with a lead core releases five times more lead than is considered safe for young children and is far higher than environmental pollution targets allow.
Lead can lead to hormonal and behavioural disruptions.
To know if your candle wick contains a lead core, either peel back some of the cotton to see if there’s metal inside. If so, don’t burn the candle and perhaps use it as an ornament. Or turn the candle upside down and ‘draw’ on some paper using the wick. If it leaves behind a mark like a pencil would, again, don’t burn it.
Artificial Dyes and Fragrances
If a candle is dyed and/or scented with artificial dyes and fragrances, it too will release a toxic mix of chemicals when it’s burning.
Synthetic scents can lead to hormone disruption, skin, eye, nose and airway irritation and affect the kidneys and liver.
Look for candles that use natural fragrances or essential oils (in safe concentrations). If in doubt, use your new soy wax candles in an oil burner or diffuser and burn essential oils mixed with water.
Buying Safe Candles
When you’re next buying candles, rather than buying tonnes of paraffin based tealights or candles with an artificial fragrance, consider buying candles that are made from GMO free soy, have a lead free wick, is undyed and is scented using natural fragrances. Your body and our planet will thank you for it.
Our range of heavenly candles from Maison Blanche fit the bill perfectly!