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Are Candles Toxic?

Updated on February 7, 2012

If you are using the standard candles mede from paraffin wax, then yes, these candles are known to be toxic when burned. I am not sure where I heard that the everyday candle was a health culprit, but once I did, I wanted to research the topic and see what information I could find that would influence my future candle-burning habits.

Most of us burn candles for different occasions, and quite often, we burn them on a birthday cake...and many-times than not, the candle wax always drips on the cake and some unfortunate soul eats it, mistaking it for oh-so-colorful frosting. But all humor aside, awareness and curiosity of the ingredients and properties of all products one buys is a standard procedure in the resolve to taking care of oneself and lead a healthy lifestyle. That's why, I recommend looking inside your cabinets for those candles you bought for the holidays and special occasion....and throwing them out.

Here is why. Standard candles are from paraffin wax, a byproduct of the petroleum industry that is very cheap to make. It is less expensive than any other wax, and by 1850s, it replaced animal fat wax as the standard ingredient in most candles. When burned, paraffin releases soot that settles on house-hold items, curtains and walls. This soot is known to contain 11 toxins (nine-toxin exposure contributes to excess cancer risk), including as naphthalene, methyl ethyl ketone, toluene and benzene. Paraffin also gives off "petro-soot," which is known to be is considered just as dangerous as second hand smoke. According to the Jounal of Pediatrics, paraffin lamp oil burned during holidays has posed risks of aspiration and pneumonitis (study published in volume 113, issue 4). Candles seem like such an ornate product we associate with joy, holidays and gift-giving, that it is almost crushing to think that hiding behind the image of beautiful shapes and earthy fragrances lies a chemical warehouse ready to be unleashed! Oh the horror...

You might be thinking to yourself: Oh, come on! I light a few candles per year- big deal. But, this is akin of thinking that the few cheeseburgers, the few cigarettes, the everyday use of chemical-filled cosmetic and cleaning products will not be enough to cumulatively put a strain on your immune system and liver, leaving your body less protected from fighting free-radicals. The extent of every day chemical-accumulation and bombardment in our bodies is beyond the body's ability to keep up and constantly flush out (with the help of other healthy habits). This is even more disturbing, given the fact that most babies born in the modern world are born with traces of toxins inherited from the mother's body....and most of these are the "harmless type" found in ever-day products.

So, what are the alternatives? I am happy to report that there are two great alternatives to paraffin candles that are available in many health-food and indoor-product stores. These candles are made from either soy wax or beeswax, burn twice as long (or longer) and release very little soot and no toxins into the air. They are safe and made as nature intended!

Soy candles are biodegradable and made from soy beans. Most soy candles are made with lead-free wicks and from environmentally-friendly materials that are human-friendly too! Since soybean candles burn at a cooler temperature, the candle burns longer. The investment in using soy-based candles will definitely pay off.

Beeswax candles are even more attractive, because when burned, they clean the air by emitting negative ions into the atmosphere. For many spiritual healers and meditators, beeswax candles are the preferred candles for concentration and connection with the pure energy of the "fire" light emitted by a candle. Beeswax is produced in the glands of worker bees who secrete the substance- along with honey- in the bee hive. For all those keen on using the byproduct of mother nature- as opposed to a chemical industry- the choice of product is clear!

***Happy Holidays and safe candle-burning to all....


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    • AnesaK profile image

      AnesaK 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks Ron!

    • profile image

      Ronn 5 years ago

      Hi, I enjoy going through your hub, I wanted to write a little comment to support you and wish you good hubbing.

      Ron from the

    • AnesaK profile image

      AnesaK 6 years ago from USA

      Great input, RebuildingJobs. So true. Wickless candles are a must with all the options we have these days. Thanks :)!

    • RebuildingJobs profile image

      RebuildingJobs 6 years ago from USA

      Another option is to Go for wickless candles for no soot and pleasant environments the same as wick candles.

    • RebuildingJobs profile image

      RebuildingJobs 6 years ago from USA

      "Benzene and toluene, two additional potential carcinogens, are emitted from burning paraffin candles."

      Read more:

    • profile image

      Natures47friend 6 years ago

      I often why people give gifts of candles - maybe they know of the toxins or maybe pure ignorance! I love the smell of beeswax, even unused! I don't suppose tealight candles come in bees wax or soy...voted up.

    • AnesaK profile image

      AnesaK 6 years ago from USA

      Thanks, Stephaniedas. I adore beeswax candles and want to learn how to make them- like your childhood neighbor :). Way to trust your intuition about not burning the cheap candles!

      Simone Smith, I'm glad you are making the switch. I walked by a beautiful candle store few days ago and thought it was such a pity they made the paraffin candles so attractive to the unsuspecting public with those rich colors, shapes and amazing fragrances. Give us beeswax candles, I say!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Yikes... I had heard that paraffin was a bit questionable, but did not know exactly why. What a bummer! But now I know to NOT buy any more paraffin candles! Soy and beeswax all the way!

    • stephaniedas profile image

      Stephanie Das 6 years ago from Miami, US

      Well, I had always suspected this about candles, but never actually knew what was so bad about them. That is why I never burn them! I will look into beeswax candles now. I once had a neighbor who loves making her own beeswax candles and she'd invite me over to help when I was little. Good hub, voted way up!

    • AnesaK profile image

      AnesaK 6 years ago from USA

      Thank you all for the great feedback, and I'm glad you learned something new :). I really enjoy burning candles, and since making healthy choices is always my priority, I am now officially a soy/beeswax candle fan.

    • caramellatte profile image

      caramellatte 6 years ago

      Cool hub. I learned something new.:)

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 6 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      Good information you got here. Love the look and shapes of those candles in the last picture. Thanks for sharing. Voted useful.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Very interesting hub. I knew a little about the dangers of candles but didn't realise so many toxins were involved. I do agree about beeswax candles - they are superior in every way. I haven't tried the soy ones, but will look out for them.

      Many thanks for sharing.

    • Cara.R profile image

      Cara.R 6 years ago from New York

      Great hub! I knew certain candles were bad for you enough to switch to soy but I didn't know it was that bad. I'm glad I switched. Very informative.