candleLong and quiet evenings are the best time to light colorful and beautifully fragranced candles. It’s the best time to rest and create a relaxing atmosphere. A flame is one of the most natural forms of light for your eye. Candles accompany us for centuries.

What’s inside of your candle?

Lately, stores are filled with these colorful products, different sizes, colors, and scents. Mass production of candles also means that you can find a lot of artificial and chemical substances, in candles, that aren’t safe for your health.  Most people don’t pay attention to what happens during the burning of the candles and what chemicals can be released into the air and your body. That’s why it is good to educate yourself about the topic of candles.

The main ingredient of candles, as well as the cheapest one, is paraffin. It is a product of the petrochemical industry, obtained in the process of petroleum refining, also obtained from brown coal tar, shale tar, or synthetically.


The studies of burning candles containing paraffin conducted by the American Chemical Society in the USA and the study of dr. Amid Hamidi at South Carolina State University showed that paraffin released different dangerous substances. During the study, the candle was burning for a few hours in a small room with installed carbon filters to capture combustion products. The most toxic compounds found were benzene and toluene. As it turns out, just the soot emerging from burning the paraffin is harmful to your health. It has a similar effect to exhaust gas coming from the exhaust pipe of the car.

Other studies conducted throughout the past years, found other toxic substances such as acetone, formaldehyde, styrene.

  • Benzene- is an organic chemical compound. It is carcinogenic and may cause chronic and acute poisoning (intoxication). The first symptoms are headaches and dizziness. Benzene can also be absorbed by the skin causing irritation. Other symptoms of benzene poisoning include nose bleeding, shallow breathing, shaking hands, cardiac disorders, and vomiting.
  • Toluene- (methylbenzene) is an organic compound, very toxic for the respiratory system, immune system, reproductive system, and circulatory system. It can be the reason for the irritation of eyes and skin and even brain damage. It destabilizes the activity of kidneys and liver, decreases concentration, and the ability to learn.
  • Other chemicals released while burning a candle such as acetone, styrene, and formaldehyde also are absorbed by the body through the respiratory system. They are very disadvantageous to your health.
  • The main ingredient of citrus-scented candles is limonene- after being released into the air it changes into formaldehyde. The study at the University of York showed that most candles contain 100 times higher concentration of limonene than predicted.

There are many other compounds, fragrances, and dyes used by producers, which are also toxic to your health. The most dangerous are fragrances used in many air refreshers, especially the electronic ones with liquid insertable oils, but that is another topic.

You would be astonished that wick also contains many surprises. In candles, there are metal cores in the form of lead wires, sometimes made from zinc or tin. This kind of wick is more stable, the flame has a higher temperature, and the candle burns better. However, small particles of lead released, while burning, into the air can easily get into your respiratory system. This, in the long term, can lead to damaged lungs, asthma, or other illnesses. It is worth noticing that producers aren’t obligated to list lead as part of their ingredients.

Of course, burning candles 2-3 times a month won’t cause much harm, but before buying candles make sure you know what they are made of. The toxic effect of burning candles can be especially observed in small, poorly ventilated rooms, especially when you burn a few candles at a time. Remember that many candles come from China where cheap and low-quality ingredients are used.

Safe Alternatives

For all candle lovers, the best option is a beeswax candle. Often they are hand-poured. They may be a little bit more expensive than colorful candles from China, but they are safe. Beeswax is 100% natural, has a higher melting temperature than most candles, and emits negative ions while burning, which increases the quality of the air in the room. On the market, you can also find soy wax candles and palm oil candles. Although they may be stabilized with stearic acid, they are still a better alternative and they last much longer.

Source: “Colorful and Fragranced Candles- Are They Safe?” by Przemyslaw Siwacki in magazine Health without medications (01/20)

 Kasia BrzozaKasia Brzoza

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