Are candles harmful to your breathing and health?

Many people come home after a long day and use candles to unwind. Scented candles have a certain je ne sais quoi and are very popular because they are ambient changing and mood lifting which is a key factor in mental well being. Some people relax with a glass of wine or a hot chocolate so why not a candle? Candles are used for several things, as previously mentioned to relax, in a dinner party, to create ambiance or mask smells, gifts or just simply to create unscented lighting.

Are candles toxic?

The main concern around candles is if they are toxic to breathe. Like everything else its a matter of moderation and being as well informed as you can. The fuel we burn in cars, cooking, eating etc have lots of conversation around them. We breathe the outside air every day, every minute and every second and people are concerned, rightfully so. In the perspective of things previously mentioned, it can be argued that emissions from candles seem very minimal. However, they are not to be dismissed. So far, there is not enough information about the results of candle toxicity studies to have a proper discussion about whether the doses/levels or types of chemicals produced when burned are a cause for concern.

Are candles toxic? FACTS, FICTION & MYTHS
Are candles toxic? FACTS, FICTION & MYTHS

According to an article on the NHS website ‘One researcher has been quoted as saying that, “An occasional paraffin candle and its emissions will not likely affect you, but lighting many paraffin candles every day for years or lighting them frequently in an un-ventilated bathroom around a tub, for example, may cause problems”.’ That would take a lot of candles, extreme usage over years in a confined very poorly ventilated space which we normally don’t do.

Moderation is key to healthy living and wellbeing. – Sugar is ok and enjoyable to consume, however overdoing it is not good for your health, it does not make it toxic. Candle science has come a very long way from its humble beginnings in centuries past, where there was no electricity and it was the main dependent source of light. Back then it was 100% paraffin which had bigger and higher flames and would soot or beeswax candles for the gentrified. Today we use candles to create ambiance light and room fragrance. There is such a lot of choices now – plant wax, vegetable oil waxes like soy, coconut, rapeseed, palm and the like.

Manufacturers have studied waxes and created various raw and blended forms to produce the best candles. Some blends contain different waxes including a little paraffin to get the best of all sides (clean burn and good fragrance throw) whilst creating a well-balanced structure. So, as far as waxes are concerned there has been good advancement and improvements and its how the candle itself is constructed and used that has the varying factor. So if the wax is not the only factor to be considered what else is there? Say you have a well made candle that contains some amounts paraffin, it’s properly wicked, burned in good ventilation for a couple of hours, it burns cleanly and properly. On the other hand you have a vegetable wax candle that’s badly wicked and not well made. It might blaze intermittently and produce soot. So does paraffin produce emissions when burned? Yes and so do other waxes.

Frequently asked questions about candles.

Are paraffin wax candles dangerous to your health?

Are paraffin wax candles dangerous to your health?
Are paraffin wax candles dangerous to your health?

Let’s talk about paraffin a bit, as its being demonised so much. Paraffin wax – mineral oil is a by-product of petroleum, as are many other products like body grease used in skin care and has been approved by regulating agencies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves food-grade paraffin for use in food, cosmetics, and medical applications. This grade of paraffin is commonly used for manufacturing candles. When burned, paraffin wax can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including acetone, benzene and toluene, which are known carcinogens. Some cancer experts have offered their opinions. Dr Joanna Owens( science information manager) at Cancer Research UK, says “when talking about cancer risk, it’s important to focus on things we have hard evidence for. There is no direct evidence that everyday use of candles can affect our risk of developing cancer. – Dr Noemi Eiser, Honorary Medical Director of the British Lung Foundation, said, “We would like to reassure people that occasional use of paraffin candles should not pose any risk to their lung health.” So for a bit of perspective NOT comparison, I would ask the question. Which poses a greater risk, smoking or occasionally burning a candle?

Are beeswax candle really safe?

Are beeswax candles really safe?
Are beeswax candles really safe?

Beeswax has a beautiful natural yellow colour. It is environmentally friendly, safe and generally regarded as non-toxic. It burns with little smoke when trimmed properly. When burned beeswax candles produce negative ions which help to neutralise air pollutants, eliminate dust and odors. However, it is not vegan friendly and people have raised concerns on that issue.

Are soy wax candles better for your health?

Are soy wax candles better for your health?
Are soy wax candles better for your health?

Not really. Have you read articles that categorically state that soy wax candles are non toxic and better for you than paraffin which is the baddie?  Ironically, soy wax is processed with a small bit of paraffin. Also most soy wax is a product of GM soy crops which are sprayed with toxic pesticides. They are very popular as an alternative to paraffin and has been marketed to be seemingly ‘toxic free’, eco friendly, sustainable and a renewable resource. Some people feel the buzz phrase ‘100% soy wax’ can be misleading as soy wax is processed and has additives like other candle waxes to make it burn. Interestingly, to be labeled as a pure soy candle, it only has to contain 51% soy. Ridiculous right? Even ‘100% soy’ candles have to be processed with a small amount of paraffin. Anyway, logically anything that burns releases something in the air albeit in little doses. This wax has a lower melting point and unless additives are present it gives less scent throw than paraffin.

Is palm wax vegan?

Are palm wax candles vegan?
Are palm wax candles vegan?

Yes. This is a relatively new product to the market. It is a renewable resource, non-GMO, and petroleum free. However, there are concerns about exploitation in the farm fields. Palm oil is the main ingredient derived from its fruit bunches. The flame is bright and the candles can have a lovely textured pattern.

There are other waxes available like coconut wax which have to be blended with harder waxes to create candles.

Are candle wicks toxic?

Are candle wicks toxic?
Are candle wicks toxic?

The other thing to look at is the wick used. Ideally cotton or natural wicks are best. Some wicks have metal through the center and apparently contain lead and zinc. The US has banned wicks with lead and the EU manufacturers are expected to voluntary honor nonproduction of lead wicks. Having said that some imported candles from unregulated countries may contain lead. Buying cheap abroad doesn’t mean safe. If unsure you can to go for cotton or wood wicks which are more natural alternatives.

Are candle fragrance oils toxic?

Are candle fragrance oils toxic?
Are candle fragrance oils toxic?

The main thing with candles of course is the fragrance. That’s why it sells so much. Because fragrance oil is manmade does not mean it is bad or unsafe. Online some people call them toxic. Everything seems to be ‘toxic’ nowadays. Funny how some people are quick to say scented candles are toxic and yet they spend on and love perfumes. What do they think is in them – magical dust? Then some say use essential oils as the alternative. Again anything burned gives of something and essential oils whilst they are great are volatile oils and must be used correctly in candles as well as for body care. Most candles and bath and body products use fragrance oils. The thing to remember is that they are governed by regulating bodies, so it’s not a free for all anything goes out there. If in doubt read the labels.

Which candles are safe for your health?

Which candles are safe?
Which candles are safe for your health?
  • If you are concerned about air quality the cleanest option is high quality 100% unscented and properly wicked beeswax. Beeswax actually gives off negative ions which help improve air quality.
  • Although its a GM crop Soy’s greatest advantage is that it is completely renewable and burns cleanly and slowly. It is worth noting soy candles have to be processed with a small amount of paraffin.
  • Poorly wicked candles blaze or produce black smoke should be avoided. Trimming your wick can allow your candle to burn properly.
  • Studies show that paraffin, beeswax and vegetable waxes are all biodegradable.
  • Studies so far has shown that main candles exhibit similar burn behaviour. Currently, there is no concrete scientific study that has collected or analyzed emissions data on any candle wax including paraffin, that definitely proves they are harmful to human health.
  • Be aware of marketing ploys. They involve scaremongering lacking valid scientific proof

Are wax melt better candles?

Which candles are safe?
Which candles are safe for your health?

They are safer than candles in that if used on an electric burner you avoid the naked flame. It is inadvisable to leave a candle unattended or leave near anything that can catch fire. Ever left the house wondering whether you put the candle out or not? Wax melts are really great to use and they come in all kinds of fun shapes, colors and smells. Some people hoard them and just enjoy as and when needed. Others just love the glow of a candle and they can be really pretty indoors or out. When heated wax melts releases emissions at a much lower level that candles and there is no soot involved.

What is a safe alternative to candles?

What is a safe alternative to candles?
What is a safe alternative to candles?

If you want to fragrance your home but do not want to use candles, there are options. Reed diffusers are a great alternative and they do look good in terms of house decor. Potpourri is lovely as well. You can have them all natural dried flowers or with fragrance. Oil and wax warmers, air fresheners, simmer spices or in the summer freshly cut roses and lavender.

In all, there is a lot of scaremongering online and newspapers use sensationalised headlines to gain attention. It’s not that dangers don’t exist, its how you go about something that matters. At the end of the day it’s up to you to decide what’s right for you. Currently, our candles are made with a professional grade container wax that combines the marketing and clean-burning benefits of natural vegetable wax, with the stability and scent throw of mineral wax.

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An all time classic favourite candle fragrance

Vanilla is such a popular choice. It is from the orchid family and has a lovely smell, big flavour and breeds romance. It’s easy to see why it’s an all time favourite in baking, ice cream and many other things. Its fragrance invokes a sense of calmness, comfort and luxury. It’s one of my favorites too. We use a mix of vegetable and mineral oil. Discover Vanilla scented candles.

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