One day Alyssa came home and said, “Don’t ever burn another candle unless it is soy.” Being an avid candle burner, I looked at her like she was an alien from another planet. She swiftly defended her statement.
“Mom, I’m serious. Today I learned that candles like we buy are really bad and they are going to kill us.”
“Where did you learn this, Alyssa?” I calmly asked almost knowing what her answer would be because lately she keeps bringing home an abundance of this type of information.
“The ladies at work. You know they are very into the natural and organic stuff,” she replied matter-of-factly.
Without saying a word, I thought, “Ohhhhhh, THOSE women!” I’m pretty sure that the women at Alyssa’s job have no idea how they are changing our lives. Alyssa takes every one of their tips to heart and wears me down until I comply.
“Okay, tell me why I should not burn paraffin wax candles.”
At a rate of about five million words a minute, Alyssa proceeded to tell me all the reasons that we were never going to burn another paraffin wax candle. After her presentation, because it was a full blown presentation, she had convinced me that I needed to look into this matter further. Of course, what I have learned, I’m going to share with you.
The research facts can be found by downloading the document at the Environmental Protection Agency website, but since it is rather long and I have read it all (yes, I read the WHOLE document), I’m going to post a few of the key points that I think will pique your interest.
What Is Paraffin Wax, Soy Wax And Beeswax?
Candles are made from many products, but predominantly paraffin wax is the most common. Paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product that is created from the sludge waste when crude oil is refined into gasoline. Sounds a bit gross.
There are also soy wax candles which are made from the oil of soybeans, so it is a vegetable wax. Soy wax is a renewable resource. Most of the world’s soy beans are primarily grown in Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana. Soy wax candles burn slower and not as hot as paraffin wax candles . Actually, soy wax candles burn up to 30 to 50 percent longer.
Another type of candle that is a renewable resource is made from beeswax. Obviously, beeswax is made by honeybees. The wax is a secretion from the glands on the underside of their abdomens and is used for the construction of the honeycomb. That’s kind of gross sounding too if you don’t like bugs, but at least it is natural and clean. Besides, there are not many things more beautiful than a honeycomb, you know? Anyway, the beeswax candles last up to three times longer than paraffin wax candles and twice as long as soy candles of the same size.
The Facts About Paraffin Wax Candles
From the United States Environmental Protection Agency Research and Development in the January 2001 article titled, “Candles and Incense as Potential Sources of Indoor Air Pollution: Market Analysis and Literature Review,” I learned that “most” manufacturers in the United States have agreed not to use lead in the wicks of candles. “Most” bothered me. What bothered me even more is that 34.8 percent and 13.4 percent of candles imported are from China and Hong Kong respectively where the rules and regulations do not include strict adherence to the same standards as United States candle manufacturers. That is just a nice way of saying that there are many toxic substances in candles imported from China and Hong Kong.
According to the EPA’s research, “Candles with lead wicks have the potential to generate indoor airborne lead concentrations of health concern. It is also possible for consumers to unknowingly purchase candles containing lead wick cores and repeatedly expose themselves to harmful amounts of lead through regular candle-burning.”
They also go on to say that regardless of the lack of lead, burning several candles exceeded the EPA’s standards and posed an increased risk for cancer because of the acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, toluene, benzene and acrolein levels. All those chemicals, along with many others are not healthy or good for our bodies and most especially our lungs.
Paraffin wax candles also produce soot – that black stuff caused from the flickering flame. “When soot is airborne, it is subject to inhalation. The particles can potentially penetrate the deepest areas of the lungs, the lower respiratory tract and alveoli (Krause, 1999).” Alrighty then! That pretty much scared me because I truly value the fragility of lung tissue after watching my great grandfather, Daddy Cecil, die of emphysema.
Not only are people with asthma more susceptible to the effects of burning paraffin wax candles, but also the elderly and children. Science has proven that a child’s tiny body is negatively affected by chronic low-level lead exposure. Burning paraffin wax candles that contain lead wicks is definitely in the category of low-level lead exposure.
Low-level exposure to lead mainly affects the central nervous system and can cause:
- neurobehavioral changes
- kidney disease
- increased depression
- phobic anxiety symptoms
- mood and personality changes
- changes in sleep patterns
- learning difficulties
- difficulty concentrating
- memory loss
- loss of appetite
- difficulty breathing
Are you looking at those candles sitting on the shelves of your home a little differently now?
How To Set The Mood Without Paraffin Wax Candles
Obviously, I love candles especially when I’m trying to relax. As much as I have initially bucked against all the changes that Alyssa has introduced to me because of the women at her work, I am actually thankful for the information and have incorporated most of it into our home.
I still have a few paraffin wax candles left, but I haven’t lit them since I read about the harmful effects they can cause to my body. The part about penetrating the deepest areas of the lungs with harmful chemicals just doesn’t thrill me much, so the candles just sit and look like pretty colored globs in glass containers. (rolling eyes)
Soy and beeswax candles are wonderful alternatives to lighting paraffin wax candles.
Think about it…is that tiny flickering paraffin wax flame really worth the risk to your health? Maybe it is time for a change.