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Before You Buy Another Candle… Are Candles Safe?

It’s that time of year again. The air is becoming crisper with less humidity. The leaves on the trees are starting to change colors. It’s still warm enough to garden, but not hot enough to warrant running through a sprinkler or spending the day in the pool to keep cool. The days are shorter, enabling toddlers to look to the sky in wonder as they are able to see the moon clearer. And pumpkin spiced everything is fully taking over your Pinterest news feed. You can't wait to dive in with some nostalgia when Bed Bath and Beyond updates their front display to include an entire wall of candles. Then you start to wonder… what exactly is in candles… are candles safe?

What else signifies the beginning of fall? Candles. Everyone is talking about candles! Autumn Leaves. Apple Spice. Fall Harvest. Gingerbread Maple. Pumpkin Buttercream. Who doesn’t like the fall scents??

Well. Me. Don’t get me wrong. I used to be a total candle junkie, and a total sucker for the new fall scents – ESPECIALLY when they were on sale! And then the crushing news came: Candles can be more toxic to your body than smoking cigarettes. Stupid science. What is a fall-scented candle lover supposed to do when living a nontoxic lifestyle?

So, why are candles so toxic?

  • Paraffin is the major ingredient in most conventional candles and is a sludge waste product from producing petroleum. It releases carcinogenic chemicals when burned, which can be as dangerous as second-hand cigarette smoke. This can contribute to serious respiratory issues, including asthma.
  • Scented candles may have lead or lead cores in their wicks, which can release dangerous amounts of lead into your home through the flame’s soot. Candle wicks are supposed to be made from pure paper or cotton, but a University of Michigan study in late 1999 found that 30% of candles in the USA still released lead into the air, in amounts higher than is considered safe by the EPA. Legislation was passed in the USA to ban lead in wicks in 2003 but is still found in some candles that are imported.
  • Two particularly toxic chemicals, benzene, and toluene are found in the sooty residue from burning candles. Benzene is carcinogenic, and toluene is a neurotoxin.
  • Artificial scents and colors can contain thousands of synthetic and/or natural compounds with or without safety data that does not need to be disclosed on the labels because of “proprietary secrets.” These fragrances may be irritants to some people’s eyes, nose, lungs, and/or trigger allergic reactions.
  • Other toxic chemicals in the paraffin mixture that are released through burning include Acetone, Trichlorofluoromethane, Carbon Disulfide, 2-Butanone, Trichloroethane, Trichloroethene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Tetrachloroethene, Chlorobenzene, Ethylbenzene, Styrene, Xylene, Phenol, Cresol, Cyclopentene. Those are not ingredients we are comfortable having in our home, especially on a regular basis with us home.

Personally, after spending most of my 20s with significant, debilitating health issues, and managing to overcome them… I’m not about to start adding toxins back into my home.

Soy Candle Alternatives

Soy. I tend to run from soy completelywith food, but did some research into the ingredients in soy candles and found: Soy Candles are often even made with Paraffin, even when they are labeled 100% soy! Plus, 90% of soy comes from genetically modified plants, which means they’ve been doused more than normal with toxic pesticides that destroy our soil and nearby waterways.

Beeswax Candle Alternatives

Beeswax. So far the only candles I’ve found that doesn’t have the potential to leech toxic chemicals into your home are candles made with beeswax, which offer a sweet, honey scent. The only downside: they are pricey. They cost more because of the amount of time and energy that goes into creating the beeswax. However, they are excellent to keep on hand for emergency needs (which is what we do) and do support local beekeepers, which I also feel is crucially important to our ecosystem.

Diffuse Essential Oils

Another option is to skip using candles. If you’re looking to enjoy some fall scents, diffusing essential oils is the most economical way to enjoy a variety of scents on a regular basis. Plus, they offer a ton of additional therapeutic benefits.

These blends are so enjoyable! Since figuring out these diffuser blends, I haven't missed candles at all. Now that I've been away from them for so long, I'm realizing how bad they are for our health by my body's adverse reaction just walking past them in the store. The candles I used to love and cherish now cause frustrating headaches. I'm so thankful to have a diffuser that helps me achieve the same aromas, without sacrificing my family's health. I'm sure you'll love it too!

Diffuser recipes aren't just for the fall… we have a few summer and winter favorites too!

My family loves using essential oil diffuser blends. They really do a fantastic job setting the mood in your home as you embrace the seasons. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!!

Author: Nicole Graber

Title: Writer, Editor, Wellness Consultant, Business Strategist

Expertise: Natural Wellness, Healthy Lifestyle, Home Business Strategy, Motherhood


Nicole is a writer, healthy lifestyle consultant, and faith-based business strategist at Gracefully Abundant, with bylines on MSN and the AP newswire. As a survivor of homelessness and chronic health issues, she discovered a purpose in guiding people toward a healthier lifestyle and increased income.

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