What’s Wrong With Candles?

October 6, 2010

Today is my birthday. Yay! One of the gifts I got is a yummy smelling gardenia scented candle from my sister-in-law. It got me thinking – are candles harmful to the environment? I haven’t thought of that before. But then again, as I’ve realized on this journey to live more consciously, I wasn’t thinking of a lot of things in that way before. And one of the side effects of this new awareness, is that I now look at everyday products with a more skeptical eye. So are conventional candles also something I need to examine?

Well I did a little bit of reading, and it appears the answer is – yes. Conventional paraffin candles are not that great for the environment. Paraffin is a byproduct of petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource. When paraffin is burned, it releases various greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide.[1] Fumes from paraffin wax candles can contribute to cancer and asthma as well.[2] Candles also create soot, which can be a lung irritant. And unless you are using a candle that contains natural essential oils, chances are your candle contains synthetic fragrance, which also releases chemicals into the air when burned.  The wick is another problem. Wicks are typically made with additives like zinc or lead, which release harmful gases when burned.[3] Lead wicks are banned in the U.S., however many of the candles that are sold in the U.S. are made in other countries, so this is hard to regulate.

This does not mean we have to stop using candles though. Thank God, because I love candles. I have a candle in every room of my home. I find they add a relaxing and therapeutic element to the environment. There are healthier alternatives to paraffin-based candles, such as those made from beeswax, palm wax, a vegetable base, or soy. You also want to look for candles with cotton wicks, that are scented with natural essential oils. Lucky for me, the candle from my sister-in-law meets all those requirements. Happy Birthday to me. 🙂

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References: [1][3] http://www.wisegeek.com/are-candles-bad-for-the-environment.htm [2] http://www.newser.com/story/67419/go-easy-on-the-candles.html

Image Source: http://www.newser.com/tag/10851/1/asthma.html

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