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By Laura Bowen
Candles are a lovely way to add a beautiful, calm ambiance to your home—unless they're toxic and cancer-causing. Sound like an exaggeration? I promise it's not.
Conventionally-made candles are packed with some of the worst chemicals available, to the point that some compare breathing the fumes of a paraffin candle to breathing the exhaust from a diesel engine.
This shouldn't be a surprise. Paraffin is the nasty by-product of gas and oil refineries. It comes out of the ground grayish and oozing, then gets bleached with chemical solvents and mixed with heavy fragrances to prepare it for use in pretty candles.
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, burned paraffin candles emit many pollutants and carcinogens like benzene and toluene, each of which have been connected to cancer, asthma and birth defects.
On top of that, candle wicks can contain heavy metals like lead. However, according to the National Candle Association (NCA), the likelihood of purchasing a lead-wicked candle in the U.S. is very low. "Lead wicks have been officially banned in the United States since 2003, and before then they were primarily limited to inexpensive imported candles," the organization said.
When you burn a candle properly, according to the NCA, you should only get carbon dioxide and water vapor. You shouldn't have to settle for the indoor air pollution that a paraffin wax candle produces.
And, fortunately, there are numerous candle varieties out there that aren't full of chemicals. In fact, some candles (those made from pure beeswax in particular) actually purify the air by removing pollution and allergens through the emission of negative ions.
One hundred percent pure beeswax candles are also thought to provide relief of allergies, sinus problems and asthma. Intuitively, this makes sense; the cleaner the air, the healthier the people who are breathing it.
Here's what you should be looking for:
- Candles labeled as lead-free.
- Candles that are 100 percent beeswax with cotton wicks. No blends.
- Candles made from 100 percent vegetable-based waxes.
- Essential oil diffusers to dispense scents, rather than candles.
Here's what you should avoid:
- Candles made with paraffin wax in any form.
- Candles that produce black soot around the wick when burned.
- Candles that leave a mark like a pencil when you touch the wick to paper.
- Candles that have a metal core.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jeff Turrentine
First off: Bangkok Wakes to Rain, the intricately wrought, elegantly crafted debut novel by the Thai-American author Pitchaya Sudbanthad, isn't really about climate change. This tale set in the sprawling subtropical Thai capital is ultimately a kind of family saga — although its interconnected characters aren't necessarily linked by a bloodline. What binds them is their relationship to a small parcel of urban land on which has variously stood a Christian mission, an upper-class family house, and a towering condominium. All of the characters have either called this place home or had some other significant connection to it.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law Thursday banning public schools or universities in the state from using Native American mascots, names or imagery. Mills' action will make Maine the first state in the nation with such a ban once it goes into effect later this year, The Bangor Daily News reported.
Inslee's 'Evergreen Economy Plan' Calls for $9 Trillion Investment in New Green Jobs, Would Help Fossil Fuel Workers Transition
By Julia Conley
A new climate action plan put forth by Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday is being praised for highlighting the enormous benefits that would result from a rapid shift in the U.S. to a renewable energy economy that centers on the needs of workers and vulnerable communities.