Long before the invention of the light bulb, candles and lanterns were our main light sources.
In today’s world, candles are used as decorations, in ceremonies, and to release relaxing fragrances. Most modern candles are made from paraffin wax, but they’re also commonly made of beeswax, soy wax, or palm wax.
There’s some debate about whether burning candles is bad for your health. Some people claim that candles release potentially harmful toxins.
However, people on the other side of the argument say that candles don’t contain enough of these toxins to be a health threat.
We’re going to look at what science has found about burning candles and separate the facts from common misconceptions.
There are many articles on the internet explaining the dangers of burning candles.
However, many of these articles use inconclusive evidence or no evidence to back their claims.
Are candle wicks made of lead?
Candle wicks in the United States don’t currently contain lead.
In 2003, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted to ban the sale and manufacture of candles with lead wicks. They also banned the import of lead-containing candles from other countries.
Most candle manufacturers stopped using lead in their candles in the 1970s. Due to concerns that fumes could cause lead poisoning, especially in children, lead-containing candles were removed from the market.
Is wax made of toxic chemicals?
Most modern candles are made from paraffin wax. This type of wax is made from petroleum as a by-product of making gasoline.
One 2009 study found that burning paraffin wax releases potentially dangerous chemicals, such as toluene.
However, the study was never published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the National Candle Association and European Candle Association raised questions about the study’s reliability.
According to a statement released by the European Candle Association, “They have provided no data for review, and their conclusions are based on unsupported claims. No reputable scientific study has ever shown any candle wax, including paraffin, to be harmful to human health.”
A 2007 study funded by the European Candle Association examined every major type of wax for 300 toxic chemicals.
The researchers found that the level of chemicals released by each type of candle was well below the amount that would cause human health problems.
At this time, there’s no conclusive evidence that burning candle wax is damaging to your health.
However, if you’re worried about the potential negative health effects of burning paraffin wax, you can try using candles made from beeswax, soy wax, or other plant-based waxes.
Do candles release particulate matter and volatile organic compounds?
Burning candles releases volatile organic compounds and particulate matter into the air.
Particulate matter is a mixture of extremely small liquid droplets and particles that can enter your lungs. There’s concern that extended exposure to particulate matter can lead to heart and lung problems.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are carbon compounds that easily turn into a gas at room temperature. Some VOCs naturally occur in flowers to produce a sweet aroma. Other VOCs, like formaldehyde and benzine, are potentially cancer-causing.
We’re exposed to particulate matter and VOCs regularly in our daily lives. These VOCs come in the form of car exhaust, factory pollution, and anything else that burns fossil fuels.
A 2014 study examining the amount of particulate matter released from burning candles found that the amount released isn’t enough to cause health problems in humans.
If you’re using candles properly in a well-ventilated space, they’re unlikely to have a significant impact on your health.
Is candle smoke toxic?
Breathing too much of any type of smoke can potentially damage your health.
Burning candles made of paraffin releases soot. It’s been supposed that the combustion products from these candles are similar to those released from a diesel engine.
It’s a good idea to minimize the amount of smoke you breathe in by lighting your candles in a well-ventilated room and keeping them away from drafts that can increase the amount of smoke they release.
Burning scented candles can release volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde that may increase your cancer risk.
Even though scented candles release these compounds, it isn’t clear if they impact your health.
It’s also possible to have an allergic reaction to scented candles. Symptoms can include:
- runny nose
- sinus blockage
Soy candles produce less soot and toxic chemicals than candles made from paraffin.
Even though the smoke is cleaner, it’s a good idea to minimize your intake of any type of smoke.
The European Candle Association offers the following advice for handling candles:
- Don’t burn candles in a drafty area.
- Trim the wick if it gets longer than 10 to 15 millimeters.
- Instead of blowing out a candle, use a candle snugger or dip the wick in wax.
- Ventilate your room after extinguishing a candle.
Burning almost anything has the potential to release chemicals that may harm your health.
The smoke from burning candles in a well-ventilated area is unlikely to have a significant impact on your health compared to the pollution you breathe in during your daily life.
If you want to minimize the amount of particulate matter you breathe in, sticking to candles made from natural sources is your best option.
According to one study, candles made from palm stearin only release half as much soot as candles made from paraffin. The researchers also explain that natural candles seem to release the lowest amount of potentially dangerous chemicals.
Some natural candles options include:
- coconut wax
- soy wax
- palm wax
- vegetable wax
Burning a candle releases chemicals that can be potentially dangerous to human health. However, there isn’t any definitive research showing that exposure to candle smoke increases your risk of developing any health condition.
Inhaling any type of smoke can be unhealthy. If you plan on using candles regularly, it’s a good idea to burn them in a ventilated room to minimize the amount of smoke you breathe in.
Keeping your candles away from drafts can help decrease the amount of smoke they produce.