>Candle burning – Are you subjecting your family to diesel fumes?


I recently stumbled upon a statistic regarding the content of soy wax candles. Since the candle industry has no regulations to contend with, it is perfectly acceptable to sell a natural “soy” candle as long as there is ‘some’ soy wax in the mixture! What?

Upon further research I really couldn’t find any conclusive evidence if this was accurate or not. Why? Because evidently there are no standards or regulations which deal with this. In the year 2000 fire safety labeling became required and in 2003 the Consumer Product Safety commission finally banned lead wicks from the US marketplace. Other than these two regulations the field is wide open to do whatever you wish. As a soy candle manufacturer I have chosen to stop using paraffin candles, however this is a personal choice. While doing my research I found that there is a campaign on the Internet which states that paraffin wax is just fine and dandy and that soy candle manufacturers are liars when they state that there are risks when burning paraffin candles.

To be perfectly fair, I looked up the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) information for both types of wax. After looking at facts and figures it solidified my belief in soy wax; however I’d like to provide you some facts so that you may make up your own mind.

Paraffin is the predominant wax used in the candle industry. Paraffin is basically the “bottom of the barrel” even after asphalt is extracted. Paraffin is the final byproduct in the petroleum refining chain.

– Paraffin Wax (Material Safety Data Sheet) :

  • Information on Ingredients – Chemical family: Petroleum Hydrocarbon.
  • Hazards Identification, Inhalation: Breathing fumes in confined areas can cause respiratory discomfort and possible irritation. Exposure to vapors, fumes or smoke from molten material handled in confined areas can produce irritation of respiratory tracts, and possible physical discomfort to sensitive individuals.
  • Accidental Release Measures: Spills or leaks: Handle as a thermoplastic. With molten spills, allow material to solidify and cool. Keep material out of sewers and watercourses by diking or impounding.
  • Toxicological Information: Skin contact, inhalation acute, inhalation chronic.
  • Effects of acute exposure to material: Wax fumes have been reported to be irritating to the respiratory tract, especially sensitized persons.
  • Effects of chronic exposure to material: In rats, chronic ingestion has shown accumulation in target organs (liver, spleen) with associated nonspecific immune response.
  • TSCA status: This product, or its ingredients as a mixture, appears on the toxic substances control act inventory.

Interesting, isn’t it? Main ingredient is Petroleum Hydrocarbon yet many candle manufacturers say that there is nothing wrong with breathing the fumes? It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that there is something wrong with this equation.

David Krause, an air quality engineer and former employee of the Florida Department of Health, says that the soot given off from the burning of paraffin candles is the same as that given off by burning diesel fuel. Some of the air contaminants in paraffin fumes include toluene, benzene, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), and naphthalene–substances found in paint, lacquer and varnish removers. “If you burn paraffin candles, you might as well be inhaling diesel fumes”. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that benzene and toluene are probable human carcinogens.

Now, to the other side of things. Soy Wax (Material Safety Data Sheet):

  • Chemical identity: Saturated and unsaturated vegetable lipids predominantly containing triglycerides, diglycerides and monoglycerides (aka Vegetable oil)
  • Hazardous Ingredients: Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act
  • Health hazard information (acute a chronic): None known.
  • Spill or leak clean up: Confine spill with sand or other absorbent inert media. Return to container and dispose in accordance with local, state and federal regulations. Clean area with detergent and hot water.

In my opinion the proof is very clear on which type of wax is a better choice. Have you changed your opinion?

So, back to the original topic. It appears that many soy candle makers are mixing their soy wax with other ingredients. The main reason discussed on the Internet is so that the candles are prettier. Unfortunately, the main ingredient that they are adding is paraffin to their soy wax. Research is showing that soybean wax burns the cleanest of all waxes and longer than paraffin.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for healthy candles:

· Buy candles from trusted countries. Imported candles often come from countries where they use chemicals no longer used in North America because of health concerns.

· Ask what the wick is made of. If your vendor can’t tell you, don’t buy it. Cotton or hemp wicks are considered to be the safest.

· Choose candles made from natural waxes: 100% soy wax, 100% beeswax, bayberry wax.

· Be aware that many candle manufacturers make claims for their candles or waxes that can’t be substantiated, or are untrue. Candles produce both negative and positive ions, for example. No candle is “soot-free”, because combustion causes soot (however, beeswax and soy wax don’t produce sticky, black, petroleum-based soot).

I encourage you to be an educated consumer and find out what you are purchasing for you and your family. If you are not sure what is in the candle then ask the manufacturer, and if they aren’t sure then don’t buy it.

Check back for future articles on BSD (black soot deposition), wicks, fragrance oils and how to properly burn your candles.


Marie – Owner

Sally Lee Candle Co.



Speaking About Petroleum-based Candles, Healthy & Natural Journal , Oct, 2000 by Vicki L. Elmore

The Burning Question: Do Candles Harm the Environment?, Posted on Wed Apr 30 2008 by
Amy Anaruk in Daily Green Tips

Paraffin Wax Information & Health Risks


About marierhoades

Beach bum, wife, mother, lover of dogs & cats. Editor of Sally Lee by the Sea, http://nauticalcottageblog.com, a beach cottage design & lifestyle website.
This entry was posted in Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

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