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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Banned: Leaded Wick Candles

Australian world first with ban on candles
that can cause lead poisoning

A fact sheet by The LEAD Group Incorporated, Sydney, Australia

What is the problem with candles?

Not all candles pose a risk of lead poisoning – most candles do not have a metal thread running up the centre of the wick. But all the candles with metal core wicks that have been tested have been found to contain some lead and are therefore banned in Australia as of the 1st September 1999. Not all metal cores are made of pure lead; some are lead and tin and some are mostly zinc. Some candles imported into Australia from China and Taiwan have been tested and found to have wicks containing a core with more than 95% lead in the wick.

What is the health risk?

When candles with more than 95% lead in the wick are burnt they emit 500 –1000 micrograms of lead per hour. Over one year, ˝ to 1 micrograms of lead per cubic metre of air is regarded as the maximum level a child or adult should be exposed to. Long term use of these candles would contaminate carpets and soft furnishings in the house with fine particles of lead. In the short-term, high exposure risks are via inhalation. Dust wipes after several months of burning lead core wick candles in a room in Texas contained 40 mg per square foot, many times the acceptable level for a room to be regarded as safe for young children. These candles are not safe to burn!!!

Young children and unborn babies are particularly at risk. Even small quantities of lead are capable of causing I.Q. loss and learning difficulties and behaviour problems. Pregnant women need to be especially wary of their lead exposure: the placenta offers no barrier to lead and it can result in miscarriage and damage to the foetus’ developing brain and nervous system. Burning lead core wick candles poses a serious risk as these candles give off lead fumes in amounts that far exceed safe levels. Candles with more than 95% lead in the wick could conceivably cause severe lead poisoning (potentially death) when more than 3 candles were burnt in a small poorly ventilated room for more than 6 hours per day on an ongoing basis.

How do I tell if the wicks in my candles have a metal core?

Candles which potentially have a lead wick core can only be confirmed by laboratory testing but any metal wick core is very likely to contain some lead. You can tell if there is a metal core inside the fabric sheath of the wick by looking for a darkish line in the white wick or by poking through the outer sheath with a sharp needle to reveal the metal. The metal is very fine. If the wick has already been burnt, poking with a needle you might still be able to "feel" the metal filament or you may be able to turn the candle upside-down and inspect the wick from the base of the candle.

What do the metal core wick candles look like?

Metal-wick core candles come in all sizes, shapes and colours, (see photo for examples). The only reliable way to identify them is to examine the wick for a metal core and have it confirmed by laboratory testing.

Candles having metal wick cores of Pb, Pb:Sn alloy and Zncandles.jpg (330040 bytes)
L e a d S e n s e - PO Box 3421 - Rundle Mall SA 5000 - Australia

Where do the candles and wicks come from and where are they sold in Australia?

The metal core wick candles already tested originate from the US, China and Taiwan. As more candles are tested the country list may increase. The metal core wick candles are generally cheap and have previously been available in shops with a name that denotes bargains or reject goods, though they have also been purchased in a large chain store and quality homeware shops. They have been readily available so people who are likely to purchase cheap candles are the most likely to be affected. (The candle purchased at one homeware store was $29.95 so not all these candles are cheap. The US candles with lead core wicks cost as much as US$18.95 - also not cheap!). If you find a candle with a metal core wick, the chances are it does contain lead. We advise that you buy the candle(s), keep the receipt (for evidence) and notify your state or territory department of fair trading / consumer affairs as there has been a federal ban on the supply of these candles from the 1/9/1999 which prevents their supply in the NT, and a ban on their supply in NSW (since 10/9/99), Queensland (since 17/9/99), Victoria (since 11/11/99) and ACT and Tasmania (both announced on 20/10/99 and gazetted soon after). A banning order was signed in WA on 17/12/99 and will soon be gazetted. There is a ban on the supply and manufacture of candles or wicks containing lead in SA (since 23/9/99).

How many candles are we talking about?

The estimated range in number of possible lead wick core or lead/tin wick core candles imported into Australia in F Y 1998-9 alone, is 615,600 candles up to 6,412,500 candles.

What should I do if I have bought a candle with a metal core and I suspect it contains lead?

You could return the candle to the shop you purchased it from and ask for a refund or an exchange, pointing out to the retailer that supply of the product is in breach of a Federal and/or State ban. The right thing for the retailer to do would be to offer a refund or an exchange of the product, although he/she is under no legal obligation to do so, as there has been no recall of the product.

Can I sue the retailer for supplying a prohibited product?

Yes, in the States where the prohibition order has been gazetted, you could elect to instigate legal proceedings in the Fair Trading Tribunal in NSW or its equivalent in other States. You should then keep the proof of purchase, ie the docket with the date of purchase, and the retailer’s name. Evidence of the presence of lead in the candle wick should be provided. An analytical report of the lead content of the wick of the candle should be obtained. It is also important that a continuous chain of custody of the candle be shown, with the candle being kept in a safe place and a statement signed by the laboratory which analysed the candle, stating that they have removed the wick from that particular candle and that analysis showed it to contain lead. Any quantity of lead in the wick of the candle makes it a prohibited product.

Instigating legal proceeding myself could be costly, is there any other way I can ensure the enforcement of the prohibition on candles containing lead?

Yes, you can decide to lodge a complaint with your State department responsible for fair trading/ consumer affairs (in NSW it is the Department of Fair Trading). The process is simple. Just obtain a complaint form from your department; complete the required details on the place and date of purchase, and the nature of the complaint. The department will then investigate the matter and decide whether to prosecute the retailer for breach of the prohibition order.

What do I do next if I’ve been burning metal core wick candles?

First, stop using the candles. Second, have a blood lead test. This is the only way to tell if you’ve been lead poisoned by the candles. Your GP can either take the blood and send it to a lab or send you to a pathologist for this. If you hate blood tests, wear an anaesthetic band-aid over the vein on the inside of your arm at the elbow (eg EMLA Patch, available over the counter from the chemist) for at least one hour before the blood is taken. Wear an extra layer of clothing than you normally would for the weather on the day, and have plenty to eat and drink before the test. The result may take 1 – 2 weeks to come back. If the result is higher than 10 micrograms/decilitre (or 0.48 micromoles per litre) then call the Lead Advisory Service Australia on 1800 626 086 or your local Public Health Unit if the result is above 15 micrograms/decilitre (or 0.72 micromoles per litre) - the level for notification in NSW and Queensland. The home may need to be investigated for lead sources if blood test results exceed these levels. You may need hospital admission for lead poisoning (even if you currently show no symptoms) if your blood lead level is excessive.

Acknowledgments: thanks go to Mike van Alphen of Lead Sense in Adelaide for testing design and the laboratory analysis and for bringing this important issue to the attention of The LEAD Group. Mike van Alphen is now on the Technical Advisory Board of The LEAD Group Inc and kindly reviewed this fact sheet.

Thanks also to other Technical Advisory Board members who assisted in the review of the information in this fact sheet: 

  • Assoc Prof Chris Winder

  • Prof Brian Gulson

  • Prof Grahame Vimpani

  • Dr Karl Kruszelnicki

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Contents | Previous Item | Next Item

The LEAD Group Inc. Fact Sheet Index

NSW Lead Reference Centre and NSW Government Publications On this site

  1. About the Global Lead Advice and Support Service (GLASS)

  2. Main Sources of Lead

  3. How Would You Know If You or Your Child Was lead poisoned?

  4. Lead aware housekeeping

  5. Ceiling dust & lead poisoning

  6. Is your yard lead safe?

  7. Health Impacts of lead poisoning

  8. Rotary Questionnaire

  9. Lead poisoned Pets and Your Family

  10. Childhood Lead Poisoning Risk Factor Questionnaire

  11. Is Your Child Safe From Lead? - What Can You Do About Lead?

  12. Lead in Drinking Water in Australia

  13. Have We Really Resolved The Lead Issue?

  14. The Importance of the Availability of "Spot Tests" for Lead in Paint

  15. Pregnant or Planning a Pregnancy

  16. Breastfeeding and Lead

  17. Lead in breast milk

  18. Beware The Lead In Lead Lighting

  19. Renting and Lead

  20. What to do if you have too much lead in your tank water

  21. Lead Contamination in Stormwater

  22. Contamination At Shooting Ranges

  23. Banned: Leaded Wick Candles

  24. Lead, Ageing and Death

  25. Metal miniatures: How to minimise the risks of lead poisoning and contamination

  26. 7 Point Plan for the MANAGEMENT OF LEAD by Australian parents and carers

  27. Countries where Leaded Petrol is Possibly Still Sold for Road Use, As at 17th June 2011

  28. Lead Poisoning And The Brain - Cognitive Deficits And Mental Illness

  29. Facts and Firsts of Lead

  30. Lead mining royalties by state and territory

  31. Lead Mining Stewardship - Grey Lead and the Role of The LEAD Group

  32. Preventative Strategies of The LEAD Group

  33. What do Doctors need to do about Lead?

  34. A Naturopath's Experience Of Lead & People With Diagnosed Mental Illness

  35. Case File: Helping Manage Australian Lead in Petrol - How GLASS Works

  36. Glass Web & Service-Users, Experts & Volunteers, by Country; Countries with Leaded Petrol for Road Use & Worst Pollution

  37. Lead in ceiling dust

  38. Lead paint & ceiling dust management - how to do it lead-safely

  39. Esperance parliamentary inquiry follow-up factsheet: Where to from Here??

  40. Broken Hill lead miners factsheet 1893 with Note 20081015

  41. Helping a Doctor Help 35,000 Lead-Poisoned People Around the Lead Smelter at La Oroya in Peru
    Ayuda a un doctor que ayuda 35,000 personas envenenadas por plomo alrededor de la fundidora de plomo en la Oroya-Peru

  42. Fact sheet for Australian toy importers and traders

  43. Iron Nutrition & Lead Toxicity
    Informe de Acciones – Hierro y Plomo en la Nutrición

  44. Sanitarium-Are You getting Enough Iron

  45. Do-It-Yourself-Lead-Safe-Test-Kits-flyer

  46. Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  47. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to both adults and children

  48. Lead Exposure & Alzheimer’s Disease: Is There A Link?

  49. In CHINA - Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  50. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you take advantage of the Australian government's Energy Efficient Homes Package: Insulation Program

  51. Alperstein et al Lead Alert - A Guide For Health Professionals 1994

  52. Ceiling Dust WorkCover Guide Lee Schreiber Final Nov 1999

  53. What can I do about climate change AND lead?

  54. The Need for Expert Clinical Assessments in Diagnosis Of Heavy Metal Poisoning

  55. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you have insulation installed

  56. Thirty Thought-Starters on Ceiling Void Dust in Homes

  57. Pectin: Panacea for both lead poisoning and lead contamination

  58. Nutrients that reduce lead poisoning June 2010

  59. Lead poisoning and menopause

  60. Fact sheet For Schoolkids From Professor Knowlead About Lead

  61. Prevention of Exposure to Lead at Work in Indonesia

  62. Mencegah kontak dengan timbal di tempat kerja di Indonesia

  63. How to Protect Your Family from Lead in Indonesia

  64. Bagaimana melindungi keluargamu dari timbal di Indonesia

  65. Cigarette Smoking & Lead Toxicity
     صحيفة معلومات: التدخين والتسمم بالرصاص

  66. Medical Evaluation Questionnaire For Occupational Lead Exposure

  67. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to children

  68. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to adults

  69. Biosolids used as fertilizer in China and other countries

  70. What are the lead poisoning risks of a lead pellet, bullet or shot lodged in the body?

  71. Alcohol’s link to higher lead and iron levels

  72. USA Case Definition of Adult (including Occupational) & Child Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLL)

  73. Low Level Lead Exposure Harms Children - A Renewed Call for Primary Prevention

  74. Occupational Health & Safety Fact Sheet Dangers of lead for roofers

  75. Let’s Make Leaded Petrol History - Let’s Make Leaded Gasoline History

  76. Lead, Your Health & the Environment. Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Korean, Macedonian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese 

  77. Lead Safe Housekeeping

  78. Old Lead Paint

  79. Working safely with lead

  80. A Renovator's Guide To The Dangers Of Lead (Brochure 30 pages)

  81. A Guide For Health Care Professionals (Brochure 34 pages)

  82. A Guide To Keeping Your Family Safe From Lead (Brochure 20 pages)

  83. Lead Hazard Management In Children's Services (Brochure 15 pages)

  84. A Guide To Dealing With Soil That Might Be Lead-Contaminated

  85. Exposure Assessment: Lead Neurotoxicity - Is the Center for Disease Control's goal to reduce lead below 10 µg/dl blood in all children younger than 72 months by 2010, good enough?


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