How candles threaten your health

CandlePoisonsCandles put poisons in the air. A bunch of them. Cancer-causing chemicals and substances that are tightly regulated by government agencies like the EPA and OSHA– watchdogs of public health and safety in the workplace–emanate from a lit candle in quantities that I, for one, find unhealthy. I wonder why I’m so alone in that view?

Candles are everywhere, from entire shopping mall stores dedicated to them, to supermarkets where you can pick up big bags of them for cheap, as well as about 98% of all restaurants and pubs I have been to recently. But every candle pumps out highly toxic substances. Why doesn’t anybody but me seem to care?

Because we all have been lied to, that’s why. The sellers of candles subscribe to a deeply embedded culture of misinformation that I intend to dispel, starting right here and now.

Here’s a quote from a scientific report on a major study of candle smoke: “All of the waxes burned cleanly and safely. Their combustion byproducts were . . . far below the most restrictive of any applicable indoor-air standards.”

To me, that quote is extremely straightforward to interpret. It says candles are safe. It says that a major scientific study found them to be safe. Right? So you be the judge. Suppose I told you those studies found a long list of extremely carcinogenic substances in candle fumes? Read the statement again in that light. Aha.

Don’t you agree that the statement isn’t just being diplomatic and giving poor little candles the benefit of the doubt? It’s going beyond what’s justified. How about this: it’s a lie. Read it again and decide for yourself, with the knowledge they found their candles to be putting out a stream of long-recognized deadly poisons. It’s a lie, right?

How could this happen? Have a look at the report I drew this information from. WAY DOWN in the fine print it says the studies were paid for by major candle producing companies and even oil companies, who provide the paraffin wax (and make hundreds of millions of dollars off of what had once been a waste product comprising 2% of every barrel of oil). Now, what self interest might be at play? Duh! The scientists want to keep their jobs and the oil and candle companies want to keep their profits astronomical. Double duh!

So there you have it. All they did was publish a report full of data showing all the deadly chemicals spawned by candles, and then go ahead and conclude that candles are safe anyway. I don’t know about you, but I don’t care if candles only put small amounts of toxic substances in the air below levels allowed by law. I don’t want ANY carcinogens added to the air I breathe!

CozyCandlesAnd I’m not done yet. It gets worse. Not only are they lying in their conclusions, but they started their research study with a lie. The image at right is a diagram of the testing chamber in which they measured the low levels of carcinogens they reported. Notice that bit about “Air supply (minimum turbulence)”? That’s no small matter. Candles in the real world don’t burn like the ones in these chambers. They are disturbed by air gusts from windows or people walking by. And when they flutter, they burn less efficiently and give off more soot and fumes. The report even allows that “high-soot candles generally produced greater levels of emissions than the reference candles,” but in their studies, the candles were burned smoothly and evenly in a controlled chamber that even had an idealized humidity, which also can effect candle burning. It’s all been tweaked to give the cleanest possible results. That’s not fair. So again, when these scientists repeatedly declare candles to be safe, they are deceiving us. They don’t even mean candles in your home or restaurant. They mean candles in their little box are safe. That makes their safety statements so deceptive, they might as well be lies. They may be worse than lies, because they seem so credible.

So here’s a partial list of the substances you breathe in a room where candles are burning: dioxins, benzo(a)pyrene, benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde. I dare you to click on them and read just how deadly they are and then go buy a candle. Or sit in a bar or restaurant where an un-educated proprietor thinks it’s a good idea for you to suck down these fumes. Good luck changing anybody’s mind about it. I’ve tried. But I’m just one little person railing against the major corporations who once again are bankrolling phony studies to support their safety claims and make us consume their deadly products. Remember the tobacco industry? Well, big oil has a lot deeper pockets and a lot of oil sludge to dispose of. Expect more candles coming to a room near you, soon.

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes Peyton McKean mystery stories and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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2 Responses to How candles threaten your health

  1. beverly terry says:

    Wow!! I don’t love my candles so much now…. Ick!

    • Tom Hopp says:

      Sorry to wreck the idyllic image, Beverly. But living with open flames where we eat and breathe went out with the stone age — or should have.

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