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MEDIA RELEASE Tuesday 21st September 1999 immediate release

Safe Candles for Lead Poisoning Awareness Day?

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Environmental groups in the US and Australia warned the world today not to use toxic candles and made a plea that toxic candles should not be available in Australia and the rest of the world by Lead Poisoning Awareness Day on 20th October 1999.

"Due to the severe risk of lead poisoning, candles with a metal core in the wick that contains lead have been banned in Australia since 1st September 1999 and an order banning their supply for sale was gazetted in NSW on 10th September 1999. Yet The LEAD Group has since that time purchased lead core wick candles in a range of stores including a quality homewares store, a major chain store and a bargain store" says Elizabeth O’Brien, National Coordinator of The LEAD Group. "While the Federal and NSW Governments are to be applauded for banning lead core wick candles, other states remain to do so. A ban must be accompanied by policing, a recall and a public awareness campaign to assist candle-buyers to identify and not buy the toxic candles and to identify and stop using those candles already purchased. We know of a Catholic Cathedral that purchased box-loads of lead core wick candles before the ban – will they be used?" she asked. "We have asked the Pope for assistance in this matter but have not heard back as yet."

News just in from America raises safety concerns about fragrant candles as well – some of which contain the banned lead core wicks. According to Cathy Flanders, an indoor air quality campaigner from Texas, "the emissions from scented candles closely resemble diesel emissions in composition and toxicity… The comparison drawn to diesel emissions is alarming, especially considering that in the case of candles the release is in indoor environments in which concentrations quickly rise with burning hours." Cathy Flanders has been motivated to begin a class action by the build-up of soot containing 40 times the acceptable lead level from scented lead core wick candles, that she noticed in her home in 1997. "The case has the potential of raising awareness of home-owners to a growing problem of soot deposition and damage from candle emissions. Candle soot is causing millions of dollars in damage to property."

"The LEAD Group calls on federal, state and territory fair trading ministers to ban AND recall all unsafe candles before people start stocking up on candles in case of blackouts from the Y2K bug. We call on the International Lead Management Centre and the World Trade Organisation to ensure that the manufacture and export of metal core wick candles and scented candles ceases and that all toxic candles are recalled. Our estimate of the possible number of lead core wick candles imported from China and Taiwan into Australia in the last financial year alone is between 600,000 and 6 million candles. There is a lot of potential for lead poisoning in all those candles and we call on public health authorities to undertake blood lead testing campaigns for people who have been exposed to them", said Elizabeth O’Brien. "We’re still waiting for announcements from candle importers and suppliers that consumers will be able to get a refund for any lead core wick candles they have already purchased – we need to get these candles out of circulation to ensure they are never burnt. The wicks can be replaced in unscented candles – so this is not necessarily going to create a massive stockpile of toxic waste."

Contact: Elizabeth O'Brien 02 9716 0014. ###

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Last Updated 08 March 2012
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