Are Candles Toxic?

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In this post we answer the question around the toxicity of candles, and back it up with scientific data. We also explain where common myths come from, as well as point out the type of candles you should avoid.

Hello candle lovers and scent afficiandos! 

Welcome to the blog post that accompanies the second episode of LGS with Goombay Candles. Today's post is going into the meat of a question that the Goombay Candle team received at an event we attended a few weeks ago - well more so a comment of a fan that prompted this post.

Before we get into this highly debated topic, I would like to invite you guys to subscribe to our YouTube channel. With your help we can grow! While you are at it, might as well pop over to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and like and follow us there as well @goombaylabs. As a small Bahamian business we would greatly appreciate your contribution to our social media capital.

Now buckle up, get comfortable, because it's story time!

So over the weekend the Goombay Candle team attended a festival pop up where we were promoting the Goombay Candle brand. The event was fantastic and it was such a pleasure meeting so many fans of the brand for the first time.

So towards the end of the day, we encountered a particular individual who we will call Karen. After about 20 minutes of smelling each candle, and commenting on how the scents reminded her of so many things, congratulating us on the look and packaging of the candles, and generally commenting on how pleasant the team was, Sammy tried to close the deal by asking her which ones she were taking home.

Now had I not been nearby observing her lengthy windowshopping I would not have believed her reply. Karen turns to Sammy and says: "These are beautiful, and the scents are amazing, but I'm not a candle person because candles are toxic. But you have a great thing here so stay consistent and be encouraged."

*Karen exits the chat*

In true Goombay Labs fashion, Sammy thanked her for time and encouragement, and proceeded to move on to the next customer. Had it been me, I would have had a few choice words for Karen. (I will fiercely defend my brand and industry anywhere at anytime.)

But this particular comment prompted a discussion with the Goombay Candle team about resolving the speculation around the toxicity of scented candles. There are a lot of rumors, false preceptions, and purposeful misinterpreted information regarding scented candles.

A simple Google search will have you believe that paraffin wax is toxic, all candles produce soot, candles cause headaches, candles are full of lead, and numerous other claims that are not substantiated with any kind of academic research. Many of these claims are the result of a long industry tactic to turn the candle industry against paraffin in favor of soy but we will get into that drama in our next vlog/blog about soy vs paraffin.

So thanks to Google, we know what the anecdotal testimonies suggests. However, what does the research say?

There are several independent research studies centered around indoor pollution and scented candles but the majority of them allude to the same conclusion; that a particular component found in some candles is dangerous. The ultimate question we want you guys to have a firm understanding of is whether or not candles are safe to burn.

The overall answer is yes.

This is what the research says:

The Okomettric Studies are one of the easiest found and highly credible candle studies known in recent times. In fact, it's even supported by the National Candle Association of America, and the European Candle Association. 

The Okometric Wax and Emissions Study (2007) aimed to research the emissions of all candles to determine if any particular type of candle (soy, paraffin, beeswax, stearin) emitted any harmful chemicals and if any type emitted more harmful chemicals than the other. The results stated:

"The study found all of the waxes burned cleanly and safely, with no appreciable difference in burning behaviors. Their combustion by-products were virtually identical in composition and quantity...far below the most restrictive of any applicable indoor-air standards."

And there you have it. The four commonly found type of candles in the marketplace deemed non toxic. But wait there is more.

Another Okometric Study was performed prior to this in 1999 which sought to test the emissions of fragranced candles. (Please note that the 2007 study did not use fragranced candles but rather non fragranced candles). The 1999 Okometric Wax Study reported, "The study showed that the combustion emissions of the candles pose no significant risk potential to the consumer of the candle and are safe."

Therefore, with a high degree of confidence in these studies backed by industry associations, it is safe to conclude that the generally burning of candles is a safe and nontoxic activity that poses no long term threat to your health with consistent long term use.

However, that begs another question. If the studies show that candles are non toxic, where did the "candles are toxic" craze come from?

Well, because at one point, candles were toxic to burn. A key component in many candles where candle wicks. And it is within the wicks where the toxins were located when burnt. The monster was lead. That's right, in the early years, candles made with lead wicks, used to dominate the market until research linked the emissions from the lead being burnt in the wicks to serious health issues.

After the implications of lead became public, lead became a banned substance in many countries, and its use in consumer products have undergone intense scrutiny and regulations.

It is safe to say that if you live in the USA or Canada or in the Caribbean region you will not find a candle with lead wicks as it is an offical banned substance due to health reasons. However, the stigma of lead unfortunately attached itself to candles and hence the candles are toxic movement started. 

The industry has made incredible improvements with new wicking materials that produce no hazardous emissions. Some suppliers have replaced lead with zinc or iron cores, but we at Goombay Labs do not endorse those type of wicks. Instead, we highly favor paper core or cotton wicks (which we use).

The next big fat lie is that all candles soot, and that is toxic.

Firstly, according to the Okometric Wax and Emission Study (2007) even if candles soot, the by product of the soot still does not pose any threat or illness to your health. However, it is important to note that sooting is the result of a poorly made candle and not a characteristic of burning candles in general.

If your candle soots, it means your candle was made with a wick that is too large for the diameter of the candle container, or you have your candle in a drafty and windy place which makes the flame flicker, causing soot to form due to uneven burning of the wick.

It is important to differentiate effects of bad candle making and effects of candles. Sounds like a future vlog/blog post. 

In summary these are the key points of note:

candles are nontoxic and safe to burn

stay away from lead core wicks

do use candles made with 100% cotton or paper wicks

all candle waxes have been found to be safe to burn with safe emissions

most issues of sooting in candles is due to a poorly constructed candle

Therefore, candle nation burn your stress away with your favorite candle brand! Contrary to anecdotal belief, the science states candles are safe. So do not be afraid to enjoy your candle safely. The links to the studies referenced are all below for your viewing pleasure.

After reading this, if you still won't burn candles, comment below why? Or what are your preferred candle burning alternatives?

Our next blog/vlog will focus on the great big debate: Paraffin vs Soy

Until next time.

Stay happy,


General Manager and Chief Artisan



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