Paraffin Info


Paraffin Wax Information & Health Risks

There are many concerns regarding the burning of paraffin candles.  Below is my attempt to gather, research and show the public the truth about paraffin candles.  Please read through the information below,... we are not trying to make your mind up for you, but we think after ingesting this information, your decision will be clear!!

March 3, 1999

This was taken from an article by Joe Frey.

One homeowner in Texas suffered nearly $200,000 in damages and replacement costs because of candle soot. The soot particles infested her heating and cooling duct work, which had to be replaced, and much of her furniture was covered by candle soot. Her insurance company, USAA Insurance, originally paid her claim of $28,000 to repair damage to the structure of the house.

Frank Vigil, a building scientist specialist with the Applied Building Science Team at North Carolina State University, says the problems from candle soot are becoming more and more evident. Vigil has investigated several cases, including one in which he was hired by State Farm Insurance Co. "There was quite substantial property damage [in that case], over $10,000," he says.

Natural Life Magazine #67 by Wendy Presneitz

I’d never allow someone to smoke a cigarette inside my home or office. And yet, until recently, I never thought twice about burning candles...scented or otherwise, for romance or for stress relief. However, an increasing number of indoor air quality scientists are sounding the alarm about the ability of candles to emit pollutants like benzene, styrene, toluene, acetone and particulate matter. Some core wicks on imported candles have even been found to be made of lead.

In the U.S., the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has been receiving an increasing number of reports about black soot deposition. A prime suspect is the increased use of candles and other indoor combustible materials including incense, potpourri and oil lamps. The problem is so severe that North America’s largest indoor air quality conference, held in Texas in mid April, featured a workshop that presented the latest research and case studies on the effects of black soot from candles.

To read California proposition 65 click below

Here is a long one from the EPA!!


Note: The following is from the EPA Report "Candles and Incense As Potential Sources of Indoor Air Pollution: Market Analysis And Literature Review, " dated Jan. 2001.
Prepared by National Risk Management, Research Laboratory.


The report summarizes available information on candles and incense as potential sources of indoor air pollution. It covers (1) market information and (2) a scientific literature review. The market information collected focuses on production and sales data, typical uses in the US, and data on the sources and quantities of imported products.

The estimated total sales of candles in 1999 varied between $968 million and $2.3 billion, while imports were $486 million. The US
imports and exports of incense in 1999 were $12.4 and 4.6 million, respectively. The scientific literature review gathered information regarding the emission of various contaminants generated when burning candles and incense, as well as the potential health effects associated with exposure to these contaminants. Burning candles and incense can be sources of particulate matter.

Burning candles with lead core wicks may result in indoor air concentrations of lead above EPA-recommended thresholds. Exposure to incense smoke has been linked with several illnesses, and certain brands of incense also contain chemicals suspected of causing skin

1. Findings

The purpose of this report is to collect economic information regarding the production and sales of candles and incense in the US, including information about imports. A second objective is to review the scientific literature regarding emission rates and potential human health effects associated with burning candles and incense. The following is a brief overview of the findings.



When candles are burned, they emit trace amounts of organic chemicals, including acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, and naphthalene (Lau et al., 1997). However, the primary constituent of public health concern in candle emissions is lead. Metal was originally put in wicks to keep the wick standing straight when the surrounding wax begins to melt. The metal prevents the wick from falling over and extinguishing itself as soon as the wax fails to support it. The US candle manufacturing industry voluntarily agreed to cease production of lead-containing candles in 1974, once it was shown that burning lead-wick candles resulted in increased lead concentrations in indoor air (Sobel et al., 2000b). Unfortunately, despite the voluntary ban, lead wick candles
can still be found on the market.

According to the National Candle Association (NCA), most US candle manufacturers have abided by the agreement to cease lead wick production. All of the NCA members have signed pledges not to use lead wicks in candles they manufacture. In addition, the NCA has sent a letter to all the candle manufacturers registered with the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers informing them of the potentially adverse health effects associated with wicks that contain lead and asking them to sign pledges not to use wicks containing lead in their candles. The NCA has also sent letters to retailer trade associations to inform them of this issue.

The NCA states that only a small number (one or two) of candle manufacturers make their own wicks. The rest purchase wicks from wick manufacturers. One such manufacturer is Atkins and Pearce, Inc.; they claim to have stopped making and selling wicks with lead in 1999.

The Candle Product Subcommittee of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) is working on voluntary standards for candle content, including labeling standards. It is anticipated that this standard will address the lead issue. The draft standard was presented at the fall 2000 ASTM meeting.

There have been limited investigations regarding the prevalence and source of candles with lead wicks. ERG did not find any statistical studies investigating the presence of lead-wick candles in the US marketplace. However, a handful of studies contain some information about the occurrence of lead-wick candles in the local study areas. The following discussion and Table 6 present information on lead and other chemicals emitted from candles.

Lead Wick Emissions

In February 2000, the Public Citizen's Health Research Group conducted a study of the lead content of candles in the Baltimore-Washington area. They purchased 285 candles from 12 stores, excluding candle-only stores, and tested the wicks for the presence of lead. They found that nine candles, or 3% of the candles they purchased, contained lead. Total lead content ranged from approximately 24,000 to 118,000 µg (33 to 85% of the weight of the metal in the candle wick).

An academic study was conducted on the emissions of lead and zinc from candles with metal-core wicks (Nriagu and Kim, 2000). For this study, the researchers purchased and tested candles (found in Michigan stores) that had metal-core wicks. Fourteen brands of candles manufactured in the US, Mexico, and China were found to contain lead. Emission rates from candles ranged from 0.52 to 327 µg-lead/hour, resulting in lead levels in air ranging from 0.02 to 13.1 µg/m 3 .

These concentrations are below the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Permissible Exposure Limit 4 (PEL- Permissible Exposure Limit: These OSHA standards were designed to provide health protection for industry employees by regulating exposure to over 300 chemicals. PELs are an 8-hour time weighted average.) of 50 µg/m 3 , but above the EPA outdoor ambient air quality standard (EPA Outdoor Ambient Air Quality Standards: Required by the Clean Air Act, these standards were set for pollutants thought to harm public health and the environment, including the health of "sensitive" populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly) 5 of 1.5 µg/m 3 . It is important to note that, although the EPA standard was not developed for use for indoor air comparisons, it is used throughout this report as a conservative comparison value. OSHA's PEL values should also be interpreted with some caution for they are occupational standards not designed for the protection of the general public, children, or sensitive populations.

Another prominent study, van Alphen (1999), examined emissions and inhalation exposure-based risks for candles having lead wick cores. The mean emission rate was 770 µg-lead/hour, with a range of 450 to 1,130 µg-lead/hour. A candle burned for 3 hours at 1,000 µg-lead/hour in a 50 m 3 room with poor ventilation is estimated to yield a 24-hour lead concentration of 9.9 µg/m 3 , and a peak concentration of 42.1 µg/m 3 . OSHA's 50 µg/m 3 PEL is not approached in this study, but again, EPA's outdoor ambient air standard of 1.5 µg/m 3 is exceeded.

Sobel et al. (2000a) modeled lead emissions from candles containing lead wicks. After burning multiple candles in a contained room, 24-hour lead concentrations ranged from 15.2 to 54.0 µg/m 3 . The candle containing the least amount of lead produced lead concentrations of 30.6 µg/m 3 in 3 hours. The maximum concentration of 54 µg/m 3 is above the PEL standard of 50 µg/m 3 and EPA's outdoor ambient air quality standard of 1.5 µg/m 3 .

Other Metals


After the ban on lead-containing wicks, candle companies began looking for alternatives that provided the desired characteristics of the lead wick without the harmful emissions. Many companies turned to braided wicks, which consist of three smaller wicks wound together to provide some stiffness. Zinc cores are also commonly used, since the metal provides the desired amount of stiffness, burns off readily with the rest of the wick, and does not have the same toxic effects as lead.

Zinc is an essential element for human health. However, inhaling large amounts of zinc (as zinc dust or fumes from smelting or welding) over a short period of time (acute exposure) can cause a disease called metal fume fever. Very little is known about the long-term effects of breathing zinc dust or fumes (, 2000).

Nriagu and Kim (2000) found the release of zinc from metal-core wicks to be 1.2 to 124 µg/hour, which is too low to be of health concern in indoor air. All nonferrous metals have traces of lead impurities; for zinc, the maximum lead content is 0.004% (Barker Co., 2000). The lead emissions from zinc wicks are below the detection level of most test methods (Barker Co., 2000), though one study found emission rates of 0.014 µg-lead/hour (Ungers and Associates, 2000).


Tin is also commonly used as a stiffener for candle wicks. It is considered to be nontoxic (Chemglobe, 2000). Tin has a maximum lead content of 0.08%, but, like zinc, lead emissions are below the detection limit when tin wicks are burned (Barker Co., 2000).


Several organic compounds have been detected in candle emissions. Three articles have focused specifically on this topic. Lau et al. (1997) measured levels of selected compounds in candle materials and modeled human exposure to a worst-case scenario of 30 candles burned for 3 hours in a 40 m 3 room with realistic air flow conditions. Schwind and Hosseinpour (1994) analyzed candle materials and the combustion process, and created a worst-case scenario of 30 candles burned for 4 hours in a 50 m 3 room with approximately 0.7 L/min air flow. Fine et al. (1999) also performed a series of emission tests on the combustion of paraffin and beeswax candles burned in an air chamber with a volume of approximately 0.64 m 3 and an air flow rate of 100 L/min. Results of the studies are presented below and in Table 6 (Table 6 currently unavailable at KSL.Com)


Acetaldehyde levels for 30 candles burned in an enclosed room for 3 hours were modeled at 0.834 µg/m 3 (Lau et al., 1997); this is above the EPA's 10 -6 excess cancer risk level 6 of 0.5 µg/m 3 , but below the EPA inhalation reference concentration (RfC)7 of 9 µg/m 3 .


Formaldehyde levels were measured at 0.190 µg/m 3 (Lau et al., 1997) and 17 µg/m 3 (Schwind and Hosseinpour, 1994). Again, these measurements were above the EPA's 10 -6 excess cancer risk level of 0.08 µg/m 3 , but below the OSHA PEL maximum of 921.1 µg/m 3 . Formaldehyde levels for both studies were far below OSHA's STEL 8 maximum of 2,456.1 µg/m 3 .


Maximum concentrations of acrolein were measured at 0.073 µg/m 3 (Lau et al., 1997) and <1 µg/m 3 (Schwind and Hosseinpour, 1994). These levels are above the RfC of 0.02 µg/m 3 and below the PEL of 250 µg/m 3 . A cigarette burned in a similar environment produces acrolein levels of 23 µg/m 3 (Lau et al., 1997).

Polychlorodibenzo-p-dioxins/Polychlorodibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDF )

Levels of PCDD/PCDF were measured at 0.038 pg I-TEQ/m 3 (Schwind and Hosseinpour, 1994). The TEQ is the toxic equivalency method used to evaluate dioxins. It represents the sum of the concentrations of the multiple dioxin congeners "adjusted" to account for the toxicity of each congener relative to the most toxic dioxin, 2,3,7,8-TCDD.

Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

The amount of PAHs measured in candle emissions and soot differs between studies. Fine et al. (1999) found that no significant levels of PAHs were detected in the emissions from normal burning and smoldering candles. In contrast, Huynh et al. (1991) found that soot from wax-light church candles contained measurable concentrations of PAHs: the study measured 882 µg benzo[ghi]perylene per gram of candle soot and 163 µg benzo[a]pyrene per gram of candle soot.

However, Huynh et al. did not measure PAH concentrations from candles in air. Wallace (2000) also concluded that a citronella candle was a source of PAHs in a study of real-time monitoring of PAHs in an occupied townhouse, but did not quantify the concentration or
emission rate.

Concentrations of benzo[a]pyrene in air due to candle emissions can measure 0.002 µg/m 3 (Lau et al., 1997). This is below the PEL value of 200 µg/m 3 . Naphthalene maximum concentration

Candle Soot

Black Soot Deposition (BSD) is also referred to as ghosting, carbon tracking, carbon tracing, and dirty house syndrome. Complaints of BSD have risen significantly since 1992 (Krause, 1999).

Black soot is the product of the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels. Complete combustion would result in a blue flame, and would produce negligible amounts of soot and carbon monoxide. Until recently, the source for the black soot in homes was unknown.

Through interviews and recent experiments, it is now believed that frequent candle burning is one of the sources of black soot. The amount of soot produced can vary greatly from candle to candle. One type of candle can produce as much as 100 times more soot than another type
(Krause, 1999). For example, elemental carbon emission rates varied from less than 40 to 3,370 µg/g candle burned in a study of sooting behavior in candles (Fine et al., 1999). The type of soot may also vary; though primarily composed of elemental carbon, candle soot may include phthalates, lead, and volatiles such as benzene and toluene (Krause, 1999).

Scented candles are the major source of candle soot deposition. Most candle wax paraffins are saturated hydrocarbons that are solid at room temperature. Most fragrance oils are unsaturated hydrocarbons and are liquid at room temperature. The lower the carbon-to-hydrogen ratio, the less soot is produced by the flame. Therefore, waxes that have more fragrances in them produce more soot. In other words, candles labeled "super scented" and those that are soft to the touch are more likely to generate soot.

The situation in which a candle is burned can also impact its sooting potential. A small and stable flame has a lower emission rate than a larger flickering flame with visible black particle emissions (Vigil, 1998). A forced air flow around the flame can also cause sporadic sooting behavior (Fine et al., 1999). Thus, candles in glass containers produce more soot because the container causes unsteady airflow and disturbs the flame shape (Stephen et al., 2000). Candles that are extinguished by oxygen deprivation, or blowing out the candle, produce more soot than those extinguished by cutting off the tip of the wick. Cutting the wick eliminates the emissions produced by a smoldering candle (Stephen et al., 2000).

When soot builds up in air, it eventually deposits onto surfaces due to one of four factors. First, the particle may randomly collide with a surface. Second, soot particles can be circulated by passing through home air-conditioning filters. Third, soot can gain enough mass to become subject to gravity. Homes with BSD often have carpets stained from soot deposition (Vigil, 1998). Finally, the particles are attracted to electrically charged surfaces such as freezers, vertical plastic blinds, television sets, and computers (Krause, 1999).

When soot is airborne, it is subject to inhalation. The particles can potentially penetrate the deepest areas of the lungs, the lower respiratory tract and alveoli (Krause, 1999). ERG did not find research literature on the health effects of residential exposure to candle soot.


Candles with lead wicks have the potential to generate indoor airborne lead concentrations of health concern. It is also possible for consumers to unknowingly purchase candles containing lead wick cores and repeatedly exposes themselves to harmful amounts of lead through regular candle burning.

Lead wicks aside, consumers are also exposed to concentrations of organic chemicals in candle emissions. The European Candle Association (1997) and Schwind and Hosseinpour (1994) conclude that there is no health hazard associated with candle burning even when a worst-case
scenario of 30 candles burning for 4 hours in a 50 m 3 room is assumed. However, burning several candles exceeded the EPA's 10 -6 increased risk for cancer for acetaldehyde and formaldehyde, and exceeded the RfC for acrolein. Once again, the RfC and EPA's 10 -6 increased cancer risk guidelines are not designed specifically for indoor air quality issues, so these conclusions are subject to interpretation.

Consumers may also not be aware that the regular burning of candles may result in BSD, causing damage to their homes. Sooting can be reduced by keeping candle wicks short, drafts to a minimum, and burning unscented candles.

Additional research may want to focus on gaps in the literature, such as emissions from scented and multi-colored candles, and maximum concentrations of organics in air produced by sooting candles.

Reports of PAHs in incense soot have been contradictory. Chang et al. (1997) did not find PAHs in the vapor extract of incense smoke. However, Koo (1994) determined that PAH levels rose with incense burning in a study of Hong Kong residences. Incense soot was found to contain measurable concentrations of fluoranthene, pyrene, enzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, benzo[a]pyrene, dibenzo[def,p]chrysene, benzo[ghi]perylene, ideno[1,2,3,-cd]pyrene, anthanthrene, and coronene (Huynh et al., 1991). Though the study established that the maximum dust concentration corresponded with the burning of incense, maximum concentrations of PAHs from incense burning were not calculated

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