I knew that burning candles is not great for indoor air quality, but Willy and I indulged a few times recently. After tucking Sweet William and Fergus into bed, it felt cozy and relaxing to eat a simple dinner by candlelight. But my nagging conscience finally got me, so I did some reading.
Most candles are made of paraffin. It’s a cheap material, a petroleum byproduct that releases toxins such as benzene and toluene when it’s burned. These toxins linger in the air and accumulate in soot. Paraffin candles are as dangerous to the lungs as secondhand cigarette smoke.
Additionally, cheap imported candle wicks may contain lead. Yes, lead.
Finally, the synthetic fragrances in scented candles contain toluene and phthalates. Exposure to these substances is linked to nervous system damage and endocrine disruption.
Bottom line: Willy and I rounded up every candle in the house and put them out on the curb. (I love that New York is city of scavengers and re-users. Someone taking our candles probably would have bought others, so we are reducing waste and demand.)
Beeswax candles are a safe alternative, but because they sometimes contain a mix of beeswax and paraffin, I’m going to look for 100% organic beeswax candles with cotton wicks. And I will save them for special occasions.