Warm, Welcoming Nontoxic CandlesDec 01, 2017
by Angela Cummings
Back in the day, I used to burn candles to make our home smell comforting and welcoming. Especially in the fall and winter when we gathered with family and friends. There was something about having our guests arrive to the smell of a freshly-lit candle that gave me comfort, an expectation that they’d feel right at home.
But behind that comforting scent was a dirty little secret that I would never have imagined.
How Standard Scented Candles are Made
That dirty little secret was in the candle ingredients, starting with the candle wax itself.
Candle wax is typically made of paraffin, which is made from petroleum, an oil byproduct. Paraffin is known to off-gas harmful chemicals into the air when melted or burned. Phthalates, one of the many chemicals in candles, has been linked to liver and kidney abnormalities, along with birth defects in the male reproductive system.(1)
Beyond the candle wax, fragrances are added to candles to give them a scent or flavor (as they sometimes call it in the retail industry). Scents are made from synthetic fragrances, which, in common terms means that they’re made from chemicals being mixed together.
There are over 3,000 chemicals that are commonly used to create fragrance and no limit to the amount of chemicals that can be used to make one fragrance. (2)
On top of that, wicks of candles typically contain lead, especially if the wick has metal in it. It sounds like a small amount of lead and potential hazard until you consider this:
“The characteristics observed in candle emissions match those of diesel emissions in the aspects considered to contribute to toxicity,” according to LEAD Group Inc. which is an organization that advocates for less lead in products globally, as cited in the A to Z of D-Toxing. (3)
“Conventional candle wicks may contain metals like zinc, tin, and even lead. As the candle burns, these toxins can contaminate your air and settle onto surfaces,” according to the A to Z of D-Toxing. (4)
After learning about what goes into standard candles, I started looking into healthier options for adding scent and warmth to our home.
Nontoxic Scented Candles
You can burn candles to create a comforting and welcoming home without chemical-filled candles. Instead, look for candles with the three key components below.
- 100% beeswax. Candles made from 100 percent beeswax are a great alternative to standard candles. Beeswax is made by bees, and therefore it is a natural animal byproduct. Beeswax burns longer and cleaner since it’s not made with chemicals. This time-tested type of candle has been used for centuries! (5)
- Organic essential oils. While the candle wax material is a nontoxic material, it’s important to also pay attention to what type of scent has been added. In particular, if it’s scented with synthetic fragrance made from chemical mixtures or with natural organic fragrances such as organic essential oils. Natural organic essential oils are the preferred option for nontoxic scented candles.
- Organic, 100% cotton wick. Look for candles that have a 100 percent cotton wick. Burning candles (or anything for that matter) releases carcinogens into the air so burn candles sparingly in order to keep a healthier indoor environment.
Also, to help your indoor air quality, be mindful of how often you burn candles because avoiding combustion activities indoors is generally best. Instead, burn candles on just special occasions.
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