How to Avoid Buying Toxic Candles

Beautifying your home and boosting your self-care can both be accomplished by lighting a candle or two around the house. This simple but soothing activity can be especially satisfying as the fall fades into winter. 

But the last thing we want to do while trying to decompress is release synthetic oils and fumes into the air that can be harmful to ourselves and those around us. Paying closer attention to labels the next time we’re out shopping for scents can prevent that. 

So, what exactly should you look out for?  Avoiding aromatherapy candles made from unrefined paraffin wax is good practice. The less refined the paraffin wax in our candles is, the more potentially harmful its oil can be when the candle is lit. Paraffin wax is a byproduct of petroleum that emits carcinogenic soot as it burns, so with a lower oil content in these types of candles comes a cleaner burn. 

While most experts agree that more research is needed to determine just how hazardous paraffin candle waxes can be to the human body, they can also agree that avoiding paraffin in favor of natural waxes is the consumer’s best bet.  

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention determined that exposure to paraffin wax can irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory system. Exposure can also cause nausea and general discomfort. 

Natural candle alternative options and wicks to workaround 

 Candles made from natural wax are generally the safest route to take, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The organization deems natural-wax candles a less toxic option than those made with paraffin wax. 

Natural alternatives include beeswax candles and candles with vegetable-based waxes, like soy candles. 

Since beeswax candles can cost as much as six times the price of their paraffin counterparts, be weary of candle manufacturers that mix paraffin with beeswax to cut costs- be sure to buy candles that say “100% beeswax” on the label. 

Wick wise, you’ll always want to lean cotton, zinc and paper over metal-cored candlewicks containing lead. 

Wicks made of pure cotton and thin paper filaments make for a more robust flame and much more stable burn. Since lead-core wicks were banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2003, you shouldn’t stumble upon candles like these in stores too often, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check. 

The CPSC found that some lead-cored wicks release seven times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children. Lead poisoning in children can lead to behavioral problems, learning disabilities and hearing problems. 

Did you know that candle fires at home occur most often in December? With that in mind, be sure to brush up on the candle safety tips listed here by the National Fire Protection Association. 

Photo credit: Getty Images

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