I adore candles. I use them all the time. Their scents take me to wonderful places–and they are the ultimate accompaniment to– relaxation, meditation, and a well deserved soak in the bath!
Candles evoke feelings of peace and calm, and they can fill the room with delightful scents. However, paraffin, the waxy substance often used to make candles, has come under scrutiny as a possible health hazard.
Why Not Paraffin?
Paraffin is derived from crude oil, the same crude oil that is refined into gasoline and petroleum products. Waxes are made from the lubricating oil that is a product of the refining process. When paraffin candles are burned, they emit substances that may be carcinogenic such as formaldehyde, acrolein, benzene, toluene, and acetaldehyde. For further information go to carcinogenic soot when burned.
Soot, which appears as a dark, dusty film on household furniture and around fans and vents, is said to be produced in greater quantity by paraffin candles than those made from natural waxes. Indoor air pollution is already a concern for many, and many people do not know that burning candles can contribute to this problem.
Another concern with paraffin candles – particularly scented ones – is the development or aggravation of allergies. Asthma, allergic rhinitis, headaches, itchy eyes, and respiratory congestion can all be symptoms of allergies brought on by burning paraffin candles.
Alternatives to Paraffin
There are other waxes that can be used instead of paraffin. If a candle is not marked, it is more than likely made from paraffin. Look for clearly labeled candles that note the type of wax that the candle is made from.
* Beeswax – Bees produce wax in their hives. They use it to cap the honey cells. People scrape off these caps when they harvest the honey, and the wax can then be used to make candles. You might associate beeswax candles with the honeycombed, rolled, taper style candles. These are, indeed, made from bees’ wax, but not all beeswax candles have that honeycombed appearance. Beeswax can be used to make solid candles, too, as well as jar candles and tea lights. It has a natural, honey-like scent.
* Soy Candles – Wax can be made from soybeans. One wonders if anything cannot be made from soybeans! Touted as the healthier option in candles, soy wax candles burn more slowly than paraffin. They are biodegradable, like beeswax. Also like beeswax, soy candles are made from a renewable resource that does not require the use of fossil fuels to manufacture.
* Coconut wax is another natural option which is gaining popularity. This wax tends to burn very clean and makes for a great vegan option.
Another issue and health concern is fragrance. In the United States, cosmetics companies producing skin care, perfumes, and candles are legally permitted to list “fragrance” on the list of ingredients without explaining what that means, because the FDA protects it as “trade secrets.”
Unfortunately, this lack of transparency could be masking whether the product contains allergens, toxic ingredients linked to illness, and known endocrine disrupters like phthalates. Go for products that specify they have used 100% pure essential oils, phthalate-free, and are non-toxic.