The Burning Question: Do Candles Harm the Environment?

April 30th, 2008 BY Amy Anaruk | 6 Comments

Using candles for soft, ambient light and to decorate the house is popular at Christmastime, but burning them could harm your indoor air quality unless you buy the right kind. Even in the wake of new research and awareness, many people don’t realize that certain candles can increase the air pollution inside your house.

All candles release small amounts of smoke, even the “all natural” varieties. One of the problems, though, is that scented candles usually contain synthetic fragrances, and those synthetics are believed to throw more soot and possibly toxins like benzene into the air. Research is still inconclusive about whether burning scented candles can harm your health, but some studies suggest an impact.

Another concern with candles is that many of them are paraffin-based, and paraffin is a petroleum byproduct. Here again, the research is inconclusive, with no definitive proof that paraffin candles worsen air quality more than beeswax or soy-based ones. However, more and more environmentally conscious consumers are uneasy with the idea of burning a petroleum product in their homes.

Plus, some candles contain lead wicks, and guess what? Burning candles release that lead into the air, and everyone in your house breathes it in. Candlemakers in the U.S. cannot use lead in their wicks anymore, but not all countries have those same restrictions, making it imperative that you always read the labels before buying candles.

The best way to enjoy the beautiful glow of candles is to buy pure beeswax ones or those made from other natural sources with as few additives as possible. Unscented candles are cleaner than scented ones, and always buy candles with cotton instead of lead wicks.

  1. tater03

    I never knew this about candles. I am one of the ones that burns them all the time at home. I will have to rethink that. Thanks for sharing this because I was unaware of this information.

  2. g bruno

    Time to rethink candles, they used to represent green, feral, natural. In fact they represent petrochemicals (unless beeswax) and the worst kind of poverty. Anti oil doesnt mean soot pollution (?) And why do ‘ferals’ do that firestick twirling thing with kerosine soaked sticks? that aint green.

  3. 3

    [...] officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, you are exposed to more severe pollution just by walking around your house in the morning than you are from toxic waste sites, smokestacks, and garbage [...]

  4. 4

    [...] Actually, usage of CFL bulbs is encouraged over standard incandescent bulbs. However, if you prefer not to not even use CFL bulbs, consider electric lighting options such as LEDs, or modify your home with natural lighting options such as adding windows, sunroofs or solar light pipes. Candles are romantic, but nowhere near as light-efficient, and most may cause direct or indirect air pollution. [...]

  5. Juliana

    Im a girl in elementary school and i would like to know what type of candle is the worst and what polluts the most

  6. Juliana

    Once again I would like to post a question? I would like to know if zync wicks are harmfull for our air and if gel candles are very dangerous or good and bad?

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