LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News Volume 7 No 4, 2000, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Downside to Aromatherapy?

By Dr. Andrew Weil

It turns out that some aromatherapy candles emit such hazardous pollutants as acetone, benzene, lead and soot. Since these harmful substances can impair the quality of indoor air, you have to be cautious about the aromatherapy candles you purchase. The National Candle Association suggests that you protect yourself by buying beeswax candles, which are cleaner and safer than those made with paraffin wax (the fumes of which have caused kidney and bladder tumors in laboratory animals). Also, watch the wick. A wick that gets too long while a candle is burning may be releasing soot into the air (always keep wicks trimmed to 1/4 to 1/2 inch). If you have noticed sooty deposits in your house, scented candles may be at fault. To find out for sure, try this simple test [developed by Cathy Flanders]:

  • Get a stack of thin, white plastic disposable plates.

  • Set up the suspected candles in a confined space (like the bathroom) and make sure that any vents are closed.

  • Light the candles and then surround them with the plates [avoiding any fire risk].

  • Let the candles burn for an hour.

  • If you see a black, sooty deposit on the plates, you can be sure that the candles are to blame for any soot you have noticed elsewhere in the house.

As much as possible, you should also make sure that candles are scented with natural essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances. This isn't always easy since candlemakers aren't required to list ingredients on their labels. You might also try scenting the air in other ways. You can evaporate essential oils in a small vaporizer or incense burner, or dilute essential oils with water and spray them from an atomizer.

http://home.datacomm.ch/rezamusic/misc_health.html : Long-Burning Candles Can Emit Unsafe Levels of Lead

For some general information about lead, go to:

http://www.ccohs.ca/ Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety - Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for lead metal.

Information about Lead in Paint, Dust, and Soil http://www.epa.gov/lead/

To see what the industry has to say, go to:

http://www.apwicks.com/sampleset.htm Atkins & Pearce, Inc. - Candle Wicking (the largest wicking material manufacturer in the world & a very prominent member of the NCA).

http://www.candles.org/about_faq.html National Candle Association (NCA), USA. [Italicised excerpt follows]:

"Should I be concerned about lead wicks in candles?  No. 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. 

Metal-core wicks are sometimes used in container candles and votives to keep the wick upright when the surrounding wax liquefies during burning. Today's metal-core wicks are made with either zinc or tin. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown both zinc- and tin-core wicks to be safe and non-toxic."

Even though the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) determined in 1974 that lead-core wicks do not present a health hazard, NCA members voluntarily agreed to not use lead wicks in 1974, and long supported the elimination of lead wick use. Companies belonging to the National Candle Association make about 95 percent of the candles manufactured in the United States today.

It is possible that a small percentage of imported candles on the market today contain lead-core wicks. However, the National Candle Association and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have taken strong action to remove candles with lead-core wicks from store shelves. This will help ensure that all candles on the market today use safe wicks.

If a consumer is still worried, how can he or she tell whether a candle has a lead-core wick? A consumer can determine if a candle has a lead-core wick by using this simple test: Rub a piece of paper on the tip of an unused metal wick. A lead-core wick will leave a gray pencil-like mark, while zinc or tin will not. It is important for consumers to know that wicks made with cotton, paper, zinc, or non-metallic materials are safe."

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Last Updated 20 November 2013
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