Man’s fascination with fire dates back tens of thousands of years. From the time we learned to control it, fire, carefully used, has been a source of comfort and delight. Today this is most easily enjoyed by burning candles in our homes.
Candles have always been used to mark special occasions. Whether you use them as part of your religious practice, to celebrate holidays, or just to create a soothing atmosphere for a relaxing bath, it is good to know how to choose candles that are healthy for you and your family. You may have banned cigarette smoke from your home, but those beautifully colored and scented candles that are touted to enhance your mood and health may also be a problem, particularly if you, or family members, have allergies or asthma (or other respiratory problems).
Candles are so common place in our society that people seldom question their safety, but this is an important issue. Aside from the obvious need to burn candles in a way which does not create a fire hazard, it is also important to choose candles which do not introduce pollutants or even carcinogens into your home. An EPA report (a copy may be found here) lists the known carcinogens acetaldehyde, formaldehyde,and acrolein as potential problems when burning candles. The American Lung Association’s Health House report from the ALA of Minnesota lists acetone, benzene, 2-butanone, carbon disulfide, carbon tetrachloride, creosol, chlorobenzene carbon monoxide, cyclopentene, ethylbenzene, lead, mercury, phenol, styrene tetrachloroethene, toluene, trichloroethene and xylene as among the toxins that can be released from burning candles. How do you decide which candles are best? Making the right choices will help keep the indoor air quality of your home safe for you, your family, and your pets.
Candle Wax and Health
According to the National Candle Association in the U.S., most people use candles to make a room cozy and warm. Is it possible that we’re risking health problems even as we attempt to make our homes more pleasant?
There are several types of wax used in candle making. All waxes have the following characteristics:
- they are mainly made of carbon and hydrogen
- they are solid at room temperature
- they are liquid at 110 – 200 degrees Fahrenheit
- they are combustible
Candle makers use waxes that are best suited to their purposes. Waxes or wax blends that have a medium to high melting point are best suited to freestanding candles like tapers and molded candles because of their strength and rigidity, but container candles and votives, which don’t need to stand on their own, are often made of waxes with lower melting points. Health issues may arise when particular substances in waxes are burned and released into our air, or deposited on surfaces in our homes.