We all like to use candles as an essential part of modern décor in our homes. Well, now it seems that candles can be unsafe both from toxic chemicals in the artificial fragrances used and the presence of lead wicks or a mixture containing lead (particularly used in imported candles).
What are the risks?
It is those slow burning types of candles that can pose the highest risk. If they have lead metal wicks, they can give off minute lead particles that float in the air for some time before settling on all the surfaces of your home where they can be ingested by your children, your pets and of course you. If there are sufficiently high amounts of lead particles, they can harm the nervous system as well as the heart and circulatory systems, especially in the more vulnerable among us. Some imported candles with these lead wicks (but manufactured in other countries) are still being allowed into the US and are being sold in American stores. You can tell if your candle has a lead wick by looking closely at the wick. A metal cored wick has a visible 'wire' in the center. To be absolutely sure, you may need to use your fingers to separate the core from the outer wrapping. If this wire core is not present, then your candle does not have a lead cored wick.
Gel candles have become increasingly popular because of their beauty and long-burning characteristics. For example, an 8 oz gel candle will burn for one hundred hours or longer, adding to the risks but also making it easy to forget a candle is burning for so long and perhaps increasing the chance of a fire. In the case of gel candles, there is concern about: the type of wick used; the container the gel candle is set in; the possible embedding of combustible materials in the gel; and of course the amount of frangrance added to the gel. It is important for you to be aware that cotton and paper-cored wicks are generally not used in gel candles because they can easily sag or lean over during the manufacturing and burning process. While zinc-cored wicks are the norm, some imported gel candles could contain lead wicks.
Those scented candles with artificial fragrances are also a big problem to your health and will pollute your room air as the candles themselves are often made of paraffin (an unhealthy petroleum by-product) and synthetic scent which is toxic. Toxins such as acetone, benezene, toluene and soot are emitted causing a grey sooty residue that lands are surfaces in the home. With synthetic oils you probably will get a stronger scent but you're also releasing formaldehyde and other lung irritating chemicals into the air.
Some of the side effects from scented candles
You and your family could end up with all kinds of symptoms such as a lack of concentration, irritability, headaches
and allergies. If you blow your nose, you might even find such grey sooty particles in your tissue. Don't take the risk of poisoning your family with these scented candles especially if you are a regular user of candles.
What are the safer alternatives?
Fortunately, more and more manufacturers are now making pure and safe candles. Look for those that are made without additives. Beeswax candles are a good choice. Beeswax is long burning and has a natural honey scent. But be aware of “blends” and ensure you get a 100% beeswax label. Another healthy option is 100% vegetable/soy wax candles that burn extremely cleanly and come from renewable resources
If you want the benefit of essential oils for purifying your indoor air, as well as the emotional and or psychological well-being they impart, think about using a diffuser in conjunction with a simple beeswax candle. Although more expensive than candles initially, a diffuser will last longer and be so much safer in the long run.