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By Kat Swaggerty

With all of the varieties of candles on the market today, shopping for the perfect one can be a challenge. This is especially true with concerns about health and wellness on the rise.

Many people have noticed that some candles tend to cause headaches, sinus problems or the “takes my breath away” feeling. This is largely due to wicks con- taining a metal core, paraffin wax and its additives.

Today the candles that contain metal cored wicks are made with zinc or tin. However, it was not hard to find lead cored wicks as recently as 2003. The National Candle Association stopped the use of lead cored wicks in 1974, but it was not until 2003 that lead wicks were banned from imported candles.

Though the zinc and tin cored wicks are deemed safe, there have been insufficient long term studies on their health effects. Many of the candle related complaints of sinus problems, headaches and breathlessness come from candles contain- ing these metal cored wicks. The metal cores are only used to give the wick rigidity and therefore safer alternatives do exist. Look for wicks with a paper or hemp core. Wood wicks are becoming popular for their beauty and ambi- ance. These new wicks are made from bamboo, a highly renewable resource grown right here in the USA. Wood wicks pose no known health concerns and people who suffered sinus problems from metal core wicks have reported no symptoms from wood wicks.

Other major problems have been reported recently with paraffin wax. More than the paraffin wax alone, the additives that go into the paraffin to make it usable as candles can be quite harmful to health and home. Paraffin wax is a petroleum product made by refining petroleum lubricants. Burning paraffin wax candles emits a large array of harmful chemical such as sterates, styrene, napthaline and acrolien to name a few.

Sterates are saturated fatty acids, most commonly from animals, though there are vegetable sterates as well. Though it is natural, it leaves a greasy film on walls, ductwork and lungs. Acrolein is a biocide used by oil and gas companies when drilling in water. It is harmful to the skin, eyes, nasal passages and lungs per the EPA. Styrene, a derivative of benzene, is a colorless sweet smelling liquid that occurs naturally in low levels. It was originally processed as an ingredient for synthetic rub- ber, fiberglass and plastics. It is a documented hazard-


ous chemical in the cases of eye contact, skin contact, ingestion and inhalation. The EPA states it is suspected as a toxin to the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys and the respiratory system. The EPA also states that it is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Chronic exposure to styrenes leads to headaches, ver- tigo, fatigue and memory defects. Naphthalene is best known as being the primary ingredient in mothballs. Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene can dam- age or destroy red blood cells. Children can develop an illness known as hemolytic anemia. Inhalation of naphthalene vapors over time has been known to lead to cancer. The International Agency for Research Cancer (IARC) classifies naphthalene as a possible carcinogen. The IARC also states that acute exposure causes cataracts and the above mentioned hemolytic anemia.

Aside from the negative effects on health, the use of paraffin wax candles may also be caus- ing damage to your home. The chemicals and additives in par- affin wax cause a sticky, black soot when burned. It sticks to walls, ceilings and contaminates duct work. Insurance and finan- cial services such as the NIA

group have been on the fence about covering damage due to paraffin candles. This has become a real problem with people trying to sell their homes.

There is a bright side to all of this. Soy, palm and beeswax candles are largely non-toxic, clean burning alternatives. Though beeswax and palm wax (made from the outer coating of palm leaves) candles can be relatively expensive, soy wax is not. The rising cost of crude oil has caused the price of paraffin wax to jump up. Making it as much or more expensive than soy wax. Furthermore, to think about it from a global point of view, paraffin supports foreign oil while buying soy wax and beeswax support American farmers.

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Oracle 20/20 March 2013

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