Aims to eliminate lead poisoning, protect the environment from lead
andto strengthen networks of stakeholders to solve lead problems.
MEDIA RELEASE 9th August 1999
Candles sold in Australia have been found to have lead wicks which when burnt can cause lead poisoning or even death. Adelaide lead assessor, Mike van Alphen found that these candles, all imported from China could release 500 to 1000 micrograms of lead per hour into the air (up to tested candles finding some with wick cores of lead wire and others with lead tin and zinc. The lead wick candles were capable of transferring some lead into the air, outdoor air quality is 1.5 micrograms of lead per cubic metre of air.
Intensive testing and risk assessment by Lead Sense has identified a consumer product that has a high probability of producing moderate to severe lead poisoning.
The particular* items tested are a 38 cm tall candle having a wick that contains a central wire that is composed of lead (Pb). There are many related candle products having metal wick cores that may or may not present a hazard; the full range of candles has not been tested. Some candles have been found to have wick cores of lead-tin (Pb-Sn) alloy and Zinc (Zn). All candles seen with metal and lead wick cores have been made in China.
The candles tested can burn for over 100 hours and emit over 100,000 micrograms of biologically available, sub-micron size Pb particulate into the air.
Modelling of a number of residential scenarios and detailed exposure assessments readily demonstrate that daily candle* burning of several hours duration would result in elevated blood lead levels. The burning of multiple candles in a confined space for greater than 3-6 hours daily would readily result in severe Pb poisoning.
Particular concern exists in households where candles are used as a long term source of lighting. This of course is readily the case in developing countries and can be the case in the homes of the very poor.
Long-term use of these candles* would result also in the contamination of carpets and soft furnishings in houses by fine particulate Pb. While the short-term high exposure risks are via inhalation, longer term, child lead exposure will be due to high lead-in-dust loadings on surfaces that children come into contact with.
Recommendations For the Public
Advice from public health or environmental health professionals may be required. Specialists in Pb exposure investigation and Pb testing such as Lead Sense will be able to conduct detailed investigations if and when required.
Particular Investigations Carried Out by Lead Sense to Date
Detailed testing has been carried out, this work has been accepted for publication in an international scientific journal.
The work involved has included:
As you may appreciate, this work, funded and carried out by Lead Sense has been both time consuming and has incurred modest expenses.
Further Investigations Recommended ( More Information Required )
Given appropriate funding and support there are a number of additional matters that could be readily investigated by Lead Sense.
Such further investigations are important. Lead Sense is the best placed consultancy in Australia to respond to and manage such investigations.
Lead Sense has the capacity to investigate consumer products using a wide range of analytical techniques and conducts evaluations of human exposure, indoor air quality and environmental contamination. An associated business is Environmental Contaminant Investigation.
What to Look For in Candles
The candles having a metal wick core come in such a vide variety of colours, shapes and containers that it is likely to be pointless at this stage to focus on the general size, shape, colour etc and other external characteristics so as to identify problematic candles. These candles are unbranded and are poorly labelled as to origin or manufacturer. They can be found in chain-stores specialising in the sale of low-cost items from China.
You need to examine the wick of the candle.
If you can see a silvery or dark metallic core to the fabric of the wick then you have a candle that you should be suspicious of. This is of course easy to do if the candle is new. Some of the metallic wick cores are solid metal 0.4 mm diameter and some metal cores are up to 0.8 mm diameter with a central hole in the core resembling electrical solder wire.
If the candle has been burning and you have noticed silvery droplets at the wick tip, and silvery metallic droplets at the base of the molten wax pool this is another sign of metal wick cores.
If you take a pin and scratch into the tip of a charred burnt wick you should feel the metallic core of the candle. [Mike also said that using a needle to separate the strands of the wick of a new candle will readily reveal the metal core.]
For further information such as graphics or photographs, please call Mike van Alphen at +61 8 8241 7055. If Lead Sense or Environmental Contaminant Investigation can assist you with consumer product testing, human exposure or environmental test work projects please get in touch.
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Last Updated 15 April 2012
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