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Candle Soot and Air Quality

Did you know?

Did you know that candle soot is becoming an emerging indoor air quality problem? The major culprits are scented and aromatherapy candles. Experts report that computers have been ruined. In some instances, there is so much soot generated from burning candles that it is causing severe damage to many homes and furnishings. Homeowners are mistakenly suing their builders and HVAC companies for improper installation of the systems.

Unfortunately, soot from candles can also be toxic. Breathing soot is not recommended. The soot particles can travel deep into the lungs. Those with asthma, lung or heart disease are particularly vulnerable. To make matters worse, many scented and aromatherapy candles are made with paraffin and synthetic fragrance oils. Paraffin is a petroleum product - a byproduct of oil refining - and most fragrance oils used for candle making are petroleum-based synthetics. The soot from these materials can contain carcinogens, neurotoxins and reproductive toxins. Testing and air chamber analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency has found the following compounds in a random group of over 30 candles tested.

  • Acetone
  • Benzene
  • Trichlorofluoromethane
  • Carbon disulfide
  • 2 - Butanone
  • 1, 1, 1-Trichloroethane
  • Carbon tetrachloride
  • Carbon Black (soot) Particulate Matter <2.5 microns
  • Trichloroethene
  • Tetrachloroethene
  • Toluene
  • Chlorobenzene
  • Ethylbenzene
  • Styrene
  • Xylene
  • Phenol
  • Cresol
  • Cyclopentene
  • Lead
  • Lead (Inorganic Airborne Contaminant)

Besides these chemicals, Kaiss K. Al-Ahmady, Ph.D., P.E., of Indoor Air Solutions, Inc. of Tampa Florida, found in testing of over 20 candles, that 30 percent of the metal wire wicks used in some candles can contain lead.

The reason scented and aromatherapy candles are the usual culprits are because the fragrance oils are unsaturated hydrocarbons and they soften the wax so that it doesn't burn cleanly. Container candles are even worse since the oxygen necessary for a clean burn doesn't reach the flame properly.

Buy instead candles made without petroleum, with wire-free wicks. Diffusers are a safer way to practice aromatherapy.