Candles are great for encouraging relaxation and creating a calm, serene environment. For some folks, a candle’s aroma and soft, warm glow sets a nice tone for romance, sophistication, and tranquility. Candles make everything special –Except when that candle is actually filling your home with toxic chemicals and contributing to indoor air pollution.

The Health Dangers of Candles

Most commercial cheap candles are made of paraffin wax, which creates highly toxic benzene and toluene when burned (both are known carcinogens). In fact, the toxins released from paraffin candles are the same as those found in diesel fuel fumes.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, some candles have wicks that contain heavy metals like lead, which are released in dangerous amounts. Wick in leads has been banned in the U.S. but it’s believed that about 30% of the cheap candles still contain lead in wicks.(source)

What Makes Candles So Bad?

Not all candles are not bad it is the ventilation
An occasional paraffin candle and its emissions will probably not affect you, but lighting many of them every day for years, or lighting them frequently in an unventilated bathroom, for example, may cause problems. Ventilation means getting fresh air into your home or workplace. When burning a candle with a strong smell, open your doors and windows whenever the weather permits. When you burn candles with a strong aroma indoors, you may wish to blow air out the window with a fan. Have another window or door open to let fresh air into the room.

I became aware of this caveat when a friend of mine who was a candle maker developed lung cancer after moving from a big house to a small apartment for no apparent reason. My friend did not smoke or drink alcohol, did not use processed sugar, ate raw foods, took holistic vitamins and supplements, was a relatively stress free individual with a happy disposition, exercised regularly, read all the labels on food products to ensure the least amount of chemicals and processed ingredients -would be imbibed. In other words, she lived a seemingly healthy life. That is why I was shocked when she called me one day and told me she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

I gave her a call over the next few weeks, and her husband told me she was deteriorating rapidly that she was in bed and wasn't doing any better. I feel so sad and went to visit her in her new apartment which I never been.

I'll never forget when I walked in the door of her new spacious apartment. I immediately feel nauseous and got headache. I didn't see any candle burning but the smell of chemicals coming from a small, un-ventilated room in a corner of the apartment was overpowering. I asked her husband where the smell comes from and he was just saying really? mmm . he said "I' can't even smell". 

It turns out that my friend was making her candles in that tiny room with no ventilation. No wonder!! There it was. Despite all her efforts to lead a healthy life she was poisoning herself everyday for hours in that airless room inhaling the toxic fumes of her hobby.

My curiosity got me into her area room where she made the candles. My intentions were to see what ingredients she was using to make her candles and check for the toxicity. She has a small organized closet with the waxes, wicks, glass amber jars and fragrances. All of the elements—from waxes, fragrances, and glass jars were from USA suppliers minus  cotton wicks  that where from china.

I also asked her husband if she worn a mask while making candles. That is one point were brought me up that my friend didn't handle the fumes of candles while making them in that unventilated room.

I as a soap and candle-maker take a lot of control of what I'm doing. I do have a small studio outside of my house with two windows and a vented hood to help control fumes.


The Health Dangers of Candle Wax

My friend was using soy wax for her candle making, but the majority of soy is genetically modified, and I prefer to not use soy at all. (source)

The best alternative I’ve found is beeswax candles, which are not only safe, but have the added benefit of helping clean indoor air. 

It’s not just the candle wax that is potentially dangerous. Top-of-the-range candles are scented with essential oils. But since they are costly and difficult to add in large quantities, many of the mass-market products contain synthetic fragrances and sometimes dyes that can give off harmful particles when they are heated.


Depending of what type of candle you are burning of and how the candle is burned significantly affects air quality. A candle burned in a draft with a smokey, guttering flame will be emitting particulate matter in every direction. 

If you prefer a candle that has a metal-cored wick, ask the manufacturer what metal is in the wick. If they can’t or won’t tell you, for safety’s sake, choose another candle.

The Health Dangers of Candle Wicks


The purpose of a candle wick is to draw wax to fuel the candle’s flame.
Different wicks are used for different purposes and they can be divided into two main categories: cored and non-cored wicks. Non-cored wicks are usually made of a braided or twisted cotton and considered the safest to burn.


Cored wicks are usually made of cotton around a paper or metal core. Zinc, tin, and lead are standard compounds used in its composition. Burning candles with lead-cored wicks is now known to cause lead poisoning, and there are similar concerns about zinc-cored wicks.
I think this led me to conclude the cause for my friend's lung cancer.

In 1974, the National Candle Association of the U.S. voluntarily stopped using lead-cored wicks because of risks with airborne lead. [source] Unfortunately, many countries outside of North America still produce candles using dangerous wicks.

Burning candles containing lead core wicks can result in indoor air concentrations of lead above EPA-recommended thresholds. (source)


 A simple test will tell you if your cored wicks do contain lead: rub a piece of white paper against the wick (of course, the wick must never have been used). If it leaves a light grey mark like a pencil, on the paper, the wick contains lead.

For candles that have already been burned, you should just throw out any that have metal cores as a precaution. Simply look at the tip of the wick and see if it has a metal core. You may need to peel back some of the cotton to find the core. If it’s metal, toss it.

Toxicologists and candle experts offer the following advice to protect your health:

One can never be "cancer proof" but one can eliminate as many of the suspected-cancer causing items from one's environment as one can, hedging one's bet against cancer.

•  Keep wicks trimmed to one-quarter inch for more complete combustion, and keep candles out of drafts — windiness blows more toxins into the air and causes inefficient burning.•  Watch out for slow-burning candles with additives.(These candles often feel greasy to the touch.)Instead, look for pure beeswax, which emit less pollution.a few drops into boiling water.

•  Don't use candles in jars when the candle leaves a soot ring on the jar's lip — the soot may be an indication of lead dust.

•  Many discount and dollar stores sell candles imported from developing countries; beware, make sure you can see the cotton wick and that they’re labelled all beeswax.
Historical Perspective
According to R. Massoudi, Ph.D., and Amid Hamidi, Ph.D., both of South Carolina State University, candles made from beeswax or soy are safer alternatives because they do not release harmful chemicals or candle soot. However, George Thurston, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental science at the New York University School of Medicine, urges people to be prudent when lighting any kind of candle in an enclosed space. Burning any candle in a small area, such as a bathroom, without proper ventilation is risky, especially for people with allergies, asthma, and other respiratory health issues.

The Health Dangers of Artificial Fragrances

 Many candles also contain artificial scents and dyes, which release additional chemicals when burned. (source)

 Are Candles Safe? 

All candles are safe to use when properly burned.

 It is safe by limiting the burning of candles, and ensuring good home ventilation,  and using a device like a portable air purifier to remove the particle matter from the air. Some air purifiers also have pre-filters that can remove gaseous pollutants like VOCs.

The occasional candle used at home, especially in a well-ventilated area, doesn’t present a huge danger. However, environments like churches, where candles are burned consistently, are a hotbed for toxins. One Dutch study found that the air inside a church contained 10 times the amount of free radicals (molecules that damage cells and tissues) as the air beside a busy highway.

The bottom line is that indoor air fresheners, deodorizers and scented candles can contribute significantly to degraded indoor air quality when they are used specially in an unventilated area. When candles are lit, they emit these chemicals into the air, the air we breathe. Our bodies take the burden of this indoor air pollution with unknown toxic effects. The American Lung Association even warns people from burning scented or slow-burning candles that contain artificial ingredients. In addition, they suggest burning beeswax candles instead with metal in the wick, or candles that are greasy to the touch.

An electric candle warmer can be used to release fragrance without the risk of an open flame.

Take the time to check. And if you find you are using such products or chemicals in your home then replace them with healthy holistic and safe products.

You can trust that your The Organic For You Candle will only have a cotton wick because we believe that your health and safety is what counts. Relaxation at the end of the day is good and it is piece of mind that you are doing it in the safe way.

 Hand finished candles 

 Beeswax comes from NJ bees