Do you use candles often or are candles a part of your preparations? We like to burn them during the colder months; at least we did until recently. We’ve had a few things happen that caused Trudee and I to do some research on candles. We had a couple different scented candles burning for a few days when Trudee noticed her asthma was acting up. Then she noticed a thin layer of soot on the surface of things here and there. (Note: We don’t have a fireplace.)
She did some research and let me know this might be a good topic to share with all of you. I did some digging as well. It turns out that most candles are created with paraffin, which is derived from petroleum. There are some candles that do not contain paraffin that I’ll discuss a little later.
Here is an article from Rodale called Candle Chemicals Pollute Indoor Air, it talks about a study that was done where:
“The researchers for this study took paraffin wax and soy wax candles and burned them for five to six hours inside a chamber, measuring the kinds of chemicals that could be emitted by burning candles. They found varying levels of cancer-causing toluene and benzene, as well as other hydrocarbon chemicals called alkanes and alkenes, which are components of gasoline and can irritate respiratory tracts and trigger asthma…”
The article also goes on to say that:
“Paraffin candles release chemicals because of improper combustion: The flame doesn’t get hot enough to burn the oil completely, and chemicals are released as a result, Massoudi writes in his study.”
Trudee and I discussed using candle warmers, as you get the scent of a candle, but none of the soot. However, if the scented oils are also derived from petroleum, it makes sense to me that they would have the same negative impacts that paraffin does. If I can smell the scent of a candle on a candle warmer, then it also makes sense that I would be breathing in the same harmful chemicals.
Non Paraffin Based Candles
If you read the article I linked above, you’ll see that there are candles made from Soy, Bee’s wax a few other plant based oils. With Soy, you run the risk of burning a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), and I not only don’t want to eat GMO I don’t want to breathe it in either.
From what I can tell, bee’s wax candles are probably the best option. However, I did read that some bee’s wax candles still contain paraffin. Make sure if you choose bee’s wax, that it is pure. I haven’t ever burned a bee’s wax candle, but from what I’ve read, aside from not having carcinogens, they also have a natural sweet smell, which means you don’t necessarily need any artificial scents.
Another plus side to using bee’s wax candles is that it can give you an opportunity to support local businesses. The Honey Locator is a website developed by the National Honey Board. With it, you can search for various types of honey and bee’s wax items in your local area (not all states available).
I would be remiss to not include some candle safety information. I know many people have candles as a part of their emergency preps. I wonder how many of these people burn them at any other time. Those who will only use them when “it’s hitting the fan” could make a bad situation much worse. Here are some simple tips.
Please do not leave candles unattended. That is a hard lesson learned when a century old condo was completely destroyed. Praise God no one was killed. Unattended candles can be knocked over by pets; the wax can also catch fire.
If you do not have a fire extinguisher on hand, this should be a prep you purchase soon. An ABC extinguisher should do the trick!
Make sure you have working smoke detectors and check them twice a year; I recommend testing when you change the clocks for daylight savings.
Trim the wicks if your candles down to about ¼ of an inch. This will help produce less smoke and slow the burn of the candle.
I found this site that explains how you can test a candle for soot. I don’t know if it will work or not, but if you want to keep using paraffin candles it might be worth a try.
Don’t burn candles in confined spaces without access to fresh air and make sure you’re letting that fresh air in now and then.
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