Choosing Healthy (Non-Toxic) Candles for Your Home

It has become quite fashionable to fill the home with scented candles that “freshen” the air. Unfortunately, most candles are quite poisonous and bad for your health and only sicken the air and our bodies. Fortunately, there are alternatives out there that can actually clean the air and also use pure aromatherapy grade essential oils to spice up the scent.

The Problem:

Almost all candles on the market today are made from paraffin. Paraffin is a petroleum product made from crude oil. When you burn these candles, they put harmful chemicals into the air. When you breathe this toxic air, some of these harmful chemicals enter your body and bloodstream. The smoke from paraffin wax contains 11 documented toxins, three of which are known carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemicals (formaldehyde, toluene and benzene). Other chemicals you will breathe in when you burn paraffin wax are vinyl chloride, acetaldehyde, and acrolein. Many wicks in these candles also contain metals (including lead) that also burn into the air and enter your lungs and body.

When the candle also has added harmful synthetic dyes and synthetic fragrances (most do these days), you are also breathing in these toxic chemicals. In reality, you don’t even have to burn the candles to breathe in toxic synthetic fragrances since they disperse in the air quite easily and go right into your body. With this knowledge, it is easy to see that nothing is getting freshened by these candles. Even when they aren’t burning, they pose a threat to a healthy breathing environment. These chemicals are difficult to detoxify, especially in a world where people are eating so poorly and are bombarded by chemicals from everywhere. These chemicals and heavy metals usually accumulate in the body (in the organs and fatty tissues) and can contribute to cancer and other serious illnesses. While you may or may not notice feeling sick the same day you burn a poisonous candle, the chemicals they emit build up in your system every time you do and eventually the body has a breaking point. Which illnesses you develop depends on your genetics as well as personal medical history and nutritional status. Many of these poisonous chemicals also cross through the placenta and can cause birth defects and accumulate in unborn children. Children born and unborn are helpless and depend on you to create a healthy environment. Please make an informed decision. Visitors to your home will also appreciate the fresh, non-toxic air.

The Solution:

The solution is to find candles with healthy ingredients. Even more importantly, the solution is to make sure there aren’t toxic ingredients added to these healthy ingredients. Many manufacturers will try to trick you so read carefully below to learn how to buy healthy candles.

1). Pick a healthy wax:

Beeswax is my favorite as it can actually help clean the air. When you burn it, it emits negative ions that bind to dust, mold, odors and allergens in the air. These particles then become heavy and fall to the floor where you can vacuum them up. The air is cleaner and there are more negative ions in the atmosphere. This is great because as pollution and modern living have taken over, the amount of negative ions in the air have plummeted and need to be replenished. Most people notice higher levels of negative ions in the air after rainstorms. The air is cleaner and has that healthy feel to it that is hard to describe – negative ions!

Other acceptable waxes for candles are soy, bayberry, carnauba, candelilla, and palm wax. Using organic soy wax is better than conventional soy wax because conventional soy wax is usually genetically modified and uses pesticides to grow.
Paraffin Wax vs Beeswax, Soy, and Vegetable Waxes

Paraffin wax:

  • produced from petroleum an unhealthy, non-renewable resource
  • emits 11 known toxins while burning including known cancer causing chemicals
  • emits large amounts of soot
  • non-biodegradable
  • burns hotter (faster)
  • creates further US dependence on oil

Beeswax, Soy, and Vegetable Waxes:

  • renewable and environmentally friendly resources
  • does not emit toxins while burning
  • emits smaller amounts of soot
  • biodegradable
  • burns cooler (slower)
  • supports US farmers and economy

2). Pick a healthy scent:

Never purchase candles with synthetic fragrances. Buy either unscented or candles made with pure essential oils (preferably organic so there are no pesticides or fungicides in them). “Fragrance oils” are NOT essential oils…they are harmful synthetic chemical fragrances. If it says fragrance, fragrance oils, parfum or some variation of these, do not buy the candle. (This is also true with soaps and any body care product, laundry detergent, etc.) Some places try to trick you by saying on the front label that it is made with essential oils or that it is an aromatherapy product. Even if there are pure essential oils in the product, do not buy it if they have also added synthetic fragrance to it or if it is made with paraffin wax. There are no chemicals ever used in true aromatherapy products.

Ninety-five percent of the chemicals in today’s fragrance oils have a petroleum base. These are the same toxic chemicals that are on the hazardous waste list of the EPA. Furthermore, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Polar Organic Compounds in Fragrances of Consumer Products final report stated many of the fragrances analyzed contained ninety percent of the chemicals listed in the EPA’s hazardous waste list. Although the FDA oversees fragrances under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, they actually administer very little control over fragrance products, allowing the fragrance industry to police itself. As a result, only about 16% of cosmetic products on the market have been tested for toxicity and therefore very little is known about the health effects of fragrance products because they do not require manufacturers to prove their products are safe. Candles scented with fragrance oils and even many of the seemingly healthy, aromatherapy candles sold today can do more harm than good as they are scented with synthetic fragrance oils that release toxic microscopic particles and can cause cancer and other health problems when inhaled. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, allergic reactions, coughing, vomiting, skin irritation, depression, hyperactivity, irritability, and other behavioral issues. Toxic chemicals found in fragrances include acetone, ethanol, toluene, camphor, methylene chloride, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, formaldehyde, limonene, linalool, g-terpinene, beta-phenethyl, musk amberette, musk xylene and musk keytone. Why would the fragrance industry use toxic chemicals in their fragrances? Because synthetic chemicals recreate needed scents and do it cheaply and no one holds them accountable. The Green Choice: 100% pure therapeutic quality natural oils (essential oils) that are either certified organic or wild-harvested from sustainable plants and trees and free of agrochemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers that can react with the essential oil during distillation, producing toxic compounds. (Taken from

3). Pick a healthy wick:

Pure cotton wicks are the only way to go. Who wants to breathe in lead, zinc or other metals with their candles? Not me. Most people think they don’t have to worry about lead poisoning in 2006 but that’s not true! If it doesn’t say metal free wick on the label, ask the salesperson to call the manufacturer and they will let you know. Even better is if the cotton is unbleached and/or organic. Pure hemp wicks are another great alternative.

4). A note about color:

Make sure there are no added synthetic dyes or synthetics of any kind. It is better to buy candles that are dyed naturally. It is hard to find this information on the candle but candles that are made to the above standards are usually (but not always) dyed naturally as well. If there are synthetic dyes in the candle, they are usually from coal tar with heavy metals in them. Again, I’m not a big fan of heavy metal poisoning or breathing coal tar products so I don’t use candles that are dyed this way.

Vote with your dollars and invest in candles that make us all healthier. I especially recommend the above if you have children in the home (or ever plan to) or have asthma, allergies, immune disorders, migraines, headaches, liver or lung disease, chemical sensitivities/chemical injury, fibromyalgia, cancer, or generally care about your health and well-being. If more informed people start asking about and purchasing naturally healthy candles, labels will start to be written clearly and the candle industry will change to eliminate toxic candles from the marketplace. As consumers, it is our responsibility to make informed choices.

**Marketing tricks and traps:

It is legal to advertise candles as beeswax or soy, etc. even if the candle is primarily paraffin. Make sure the company you buy from understands the dangers of paraffin and labels their candles as 100% pure beeswax or soy. As a hint, if you buy a candle from a popular department store, it is probably not pure beeswax. You will most likely need to purchase from a natural foods store, environmental store, or online. In addition, even some of these places will try to sell candles with paraffin or synthetics so you need to read labels (front and back) to determine if it is a safe candle. And as I said above, some places try to trick you by saying on the front label that it is made with essential oils. Even if there are pure essential oils in the product, do not buy it if they have also added synthetic fragrance to it or if it is made with paraffin wax. It doesn’t matter if there are lots of certified organic ingredients in something if it is ruined by the addition of toxic materials. Read those labels carefully!

We carry many naturally scented and essential oil scented beeswax and soy candles at the Peaceful Healing Journey Clinic. Come check them out!