Can lit candles be toxic?

Ask a Therapist

By Glynnis Osher

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Autumn/Winter 2006.

Q. I really enjoy the presence of a lit candle, but I keep hearing that some are toxic. Can you enlighten me?

A. “There is nothing like the inviting glow of a candle to make us feel relaxed, guide us into a meditative state, or harmonize the ambiance of a room,” Glynnis Osher says. She’s a certified ayurvedic practitioner and founder of The Mystic Masala Ayurvedic Aromatherapy. “With all these life-enhancing attributes, it is troubling to think that many candles are toxic and doing more harm than good.

“Most candles today are made from paraffin wax, a petroleum by-product that emits toxic fumes and soot into the air. There are up to eleven known carcinogenic compounds in paraffin candles that are considered toxic air agents by the state of California. Burning these candles can cause harm to the heart, lungs, circulatory, and nervous systems.

“The good news is that you can still enjoy burning candles because there are safe and healthy alternatives. Conscious candle choices include beeswax and the increasingly popular soy wax. Unlike petroleum, soy is a sustainable and renewable resource. Soy wax is a vegetable by-product that is biodegradable and nontoxic. Many candle enthusiasts prefer soy candles because they burn clean and release very little or no soot into the air. Also, because soy wax is water soluble, clean up is easy and containers can be easily washed and reused. Another benefit of soy wax is the cooler burning temperature, making for a much longer burning candle.

“Who would have thought that the humble soybean could revolutionize candle making, setting our minds at ease while bringing a natural outer glow to the environment as well as a healthy and satisfying inner glow.”

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