Let me tell you, I LOVE candles. I used to have a huge collection of them and would use signature scents for each season.
Now that I know how bad they are for my health, I cringe thinking of all the Bath & Body Works candles I had burning in my home and filling it with unnecessary toxins.
A few years ago, I threw away my very large collection of candles and it was one of the best things I could have done for the air quality in my home.
Traditional candles are made from a variety of nasty ingredients but the most offensive is paraffin wax. Even candles with a blend of different waxes will still usually contain paraffin wax somewhere in the formulation.
Why is Paraffin Wax So Bad?
Paraffin wax actually starts as a black sludge that comes from refining crude oil into gasoline (uh, gross).
This black sludge is then bleached. Bleaching creates dioxins which Health Canada has stated can cause cancer, skin disorders, liver problems and impair the immune system and endocrine system. The bleach used to make paraffin wax is 100% strength which is 90% more strength than household bleach.
A bunch of nasty chemicals are then added to the bleached sludge so that it can be formed into solid pieces and be able to burn longer.
After the paraffin wax is sold, the buyer usually adds even more chemicals to make the wax more aesthetically pleasing and to change the colour and the scent of the wax.
And guess what? Aaaaalll those chemicals get released into the air once they start burning!
The fumes released by paraffin wax candles are similar to the fumes released by a Diesel engine. Yuck.
Paraffin Wax Releases Benzene And Toulene Into the Air
Which are both known carcinogens. This is thanks to an ingredient called Acrolyn that is used in paraffin wax.
According to Health Canada:
“Long-term exposure to benzene, even at low concentrations, causes progressive deterioration in hematopoietic function including bone marrow damage, changes in circulating blood cells, and altered immune response.
Benzene is also a carcinogen for which there is no evidence of a threshold. Chronic exposure to benzene has been shown to cause leukemia, a cancer of the blood or bone marrow, in industrial workers; and leukemia and lymphomas in laboratory rats and mice.”
And here’s what they had to say about toulene:
“Toluene has been shown to cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness and feelings of intoxication in laboratory and workplace studies. It has also been linked to neurological effects including reduced scores in tests of short-term memory, attention and concentration, visual scanning, simple physical tasks, as well as negative effects on colour vision and hearing.”
Is that pumpkin spice candle really worth all those side effects?
Thankfully you don’t have to swear off candles for good, you just need to switch up which kinds you are using.
Healthier Candle Alternatives
- Beeswax Candles
This is pretty self-explanatory – candles made from beeswax.
While the other alternatives are neutral and don’t release toxins into the air, beeswax goes a step further: they’re beneficial to burn in your home.
Beeswax candles emit negative ions which cleanse and purify the air. They also alleviate asthma and allergies.
Beeswax Candles are the only candles I use in my home and I’ll explain why below.
- Soy Wax Candles
Soy wax is derived from the oil of soybeans.
Although soy wax is supposed to burn clean, it’s not my favourite option because most of soy agriculture is genetically modified and I personally try to steer clear of soy when I can.
- Coconut Wax Candles
Coconut wax is another clean burning option and is made from coconut oil.
Coconut wax is commonly mixed with soy wax to make it solid at room temperature so again, this is also not my favourite option.
Be sure to always check the label to make sure the candles you buy are 100% beeswax, soy wax or coconut wax to avoid buying any that are mixed with paraffin.
Pay Attention To The Wick
Many wicks contain lead and other heavy metals so you’ll want to buy candles that have cotton or paper wicks instead.
If the label doesn’t specify what the material of the wick is, take a close look – if the wick is super shiny or visibly has metal in it then you’re going to want to keep that candle on the shelf and out of your home.
I hope this encourages you to swap out your old candles for some less toxic alternatives.
As a former scented candle addict, I’m not lying when I say you’ll be surprised at how much you really don’t miss them!