Three candles burning on a countertop besides some pinecones and a warm blanket.

Are Candles Bad for You?

Julie Weber Trending Topics

Most candles use paraffin wax, which some studies say releases hazardous chemicals. Yet, other studies have found that the number of particles emitted isn’t enough to be harmful. With no official answer to whether or not candles are bad for you, here are some things to look out for when using or choosing a candle. 

ARE CANDLES TOXIC?

Humans have been using candles for hundreds of years, but researchers are still looking into whether or not they are harmful to our health. Studies completed by Universities and Candle Associations provide conflicting information. As poison specialists we stand behind a well-quoted phrase, “the dose makes the poison.” It is more commonly accepted that they do not emit enough chemicals to harm humans. 

 

A candle blown out, releasing smoke against a black background to show the visible particles candles release into the air.

WHAT HARMFUL CHEMICALS ARE IN CANDLES?

Paraffin wax is a by-product of petroleum, and when burned, it can release chemicals such as acetone, benzene, and petroleum distillates. These chemicals can irritate humans and animals and cause allergies or asthma to flare up. To help minimize the number of chemicals in the room, use a candle without paraffin wax and only burn them in a well-ventilated room.

IS THERE LEAD IN CANDLE WICKS?

Candlemakers put lead in the core of candle wicks to keep them standing in molten wax. In 2003, the US banned lead wicks. Now, wicks are made out of braided cotton. They may have a metal core made of zinc or a zinc alloy, which are not harmful.

WHAT ARE THE SAFEST CANDLES TO USE?

Beeswax, coconut wax, and soy wax are all terrific natural alternatives to paraffin wax. Check the candle’s label to make sure that the ingredients list 100% natural wax. Some candles are a mix of natural and paraffin wax to lower the price. For scented candles, go with ones that have natural essential oils instead of chemicals.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A POSSIBLE CANDLE ALLERGY?

Research shows that one in five people react to candles. Symptoms can include headache, eye irritation, sinus problems, coughing, sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, and possible skin rashes or hives. If someone starts feeling any of these symptoms after lighting a candle, blow it out and air out the room or step outside to get some fresh air.

 

Raw beeswax in a small bowl with a spoon is measured out to make a candle.

WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE SWALLOWS CANDLE WAX?

In most cases, ingesting candle wax isn’t life-threatening. Children often consume wax from birthday candles or by biting into a larger candle. Eating candle wax can pose a choking hazard or may result in minor stomach upset or a loose stool.

TIPS ON HOW TO ENJOY CANDLES SAFELY DURING THE WINTER SEASON

Candles are popular household items, and many people enjoy the ambiance and or scent they give a room. There are studies for and against the use of candles, but no definite answers on whether burning them or accidentally eating candle wax are unhealthy. Here are some candle safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Burning anything will release particles into the air. Look for candles made with natural ingredients and essential oils.
  • Use the candle in a well-ventilated room.
  • Use electric candles if you want them to light a room for a long period of time.
  • If you or anyone in the room start showing signs of an allergic reaction, blow the candles out and open the windows. 

If someone eats candle wax and you have questions, call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222. The poison center is open all day, every day, for poisoning emergencies and questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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