Better Candles For Your Indoor Air Quality
January days can be cold and dreary. It’s no wonder that simply lighting a candle at home can create that instant endorphin boost. Just think about how that warm, comforting glow in the most amazing scent brings nostalgia or reminds you of the promise that Spring is only a couple of months away. A simple candle can be such a luxury.
What You Need to Know
Not all that long ago, indoor air quality wasn’t something that crossed our minds when buying and using products in our home. But, this is a topic that has recently come front and center as research sheds light on asthma, migraines, allergies, chemical sensitivities and plenty of other serious health conditions that are caused and/or aggravated by poor air quality. We typically don’t open our windows and air out our homes this time of year in our part of the country, so indoor air quality becomes an important consideration when choosing what -- and what not -- to use in your home. The ingredients used in making your candle should be clean burning ingredients that don’t contain toxic chemicals or dyes.
For example, paraffin wax is bad news for your health and for the environment. Paraffin is made from petroleum waste, derived from crude oil. You’ll find paraffin wax in a huge variety of products -- candles, cosmetics, crayons, matches, wax paper and others. You’ll commonly see it used as a lubricator and insulator, and also a food grade paraffin wax coating on fruits and vegetables in the supermarket. Two particularly concerning volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) are released when paraffin is burned: Toluene and Benzene. According to OSHA, short term and longer term exposure to Toluene can pose a variety of respiratory, neurological, skin, and pregnancy risks. Benzene is present in a wide variety of products, and like Toluene, brings both short term and long term health risks, such as drowsiness, dizziness, unconsciousness, and leukemia. Synthetic fragrances, dyes with toxic ingredients, pesticides, phthalates (THAL-ates), and parabens should be avoided too. We would also recommend avoiding candles for which ingredients are not disclosed.
Better Options Are Here
Here’s the short of it: organic, natural, non-toxic, plant-based ingredients are better options for your indoor air quality. These options don’t contain VOC’s (unless those are added) that are hazardous to your health and will be a better option for the environment too. So, here’s what we recommend:
Soy Wax. It’s important to know that soy wax can be a great option, but there are some important considerations for you. Soy itself is a natural, biodegradable, plant-based, and totally renewable option for candles. But beware that your soy wax may not come from a reputable source. Large scale soybean companies are part of a massive industry known for clear cutting precious forests. These same companies also employ non-regenerative practices such as using pesticides and fertilizers, which undoubtedly end up in your soy candles and soy food products. Therefore, know your soy wax comes from responsibly harvested means, otherwise it may be a highly unsustainable choice.
Our organic soy/ coconut oil- blend candles are a great choice because the ingredients are so pure, the “wax” can actually be used as a lotion for your skin. We also carry a local selection of soy candles from Friendly Candle that utilize clean burning ingredients, but also have a seeded paper label. Grow wildflowers with the seeded paper once you are done burning the candle.
Beeswax. Beeswax is a very clean, versatile choice for a candle, however it’s not a vegan option. The beeswax should be sourced from a humane beekeeper who takes the utmost care of the hives. We’ve all seen the headlines about the importance of bees and the catastrophic results of allowing widespread colony collapse. Beeswax candles are available scented or unscented, which is a fantastic option for those who have fragrance sensitivities. There is strong evidence that beeswax candles also emit negative ions, which are molecules that have lost their positive charge. Negative ions attach themselves to allergens, filtering them out of the air. Our beeswax candles come from very highly reputable small businesses here in Central Ohio and in Ithaca, NY. Honeyrun Farms is a local beekeeper responsible for many of our unscented beeswax candles, and Sunbeam Candles is the solar-powered NY candlemaker behind our scented and specialty beeswax candles.
Essential Oils. Essential oils are extracted from various parts of a plant. Not only are they prized for their aromatic qualities, they also hold valuable therapeutic qualities. These are highly concentrated oils that retain the chemical properties of the plants themselves. Essential oils are considered a gold standard for candles because the scent is released as the oil evaporates from the “wax”. They are found in a wide variety of products. Because it can take lots of plants to extract a small amount of essential oil, this can be a more expensive option.
Botanical Fragrance Oils / Natural Isolates. Natural isolates are also a plant-based ingredient suitable for candles. Even though isolates are extracted from plants, these botanical fragrances are typically extracted in a lab. Basically, a natural isolate is an isolated component of an essential oil that is specifically chosen and extracted for it’s aromatic qualities. Generally, these oils are not used for therapeutic purposes. Factors such as the plant chosen and the method of extraction can affect the prices of isolates.
Lead-free cotton or wood wicks. Wicks manufactured with lead were banned in the United States in the 1970’s. However, lead is still commonly found in imported candles, and unfortunately are still sold here in the United States. Make certain the candle label discloses a lead-free cotton wick. Otherwise, wood wicks are good options too.
Natural Dyes. Most of our candles are dye-free at Green Haven Living. However, if you choose a dyed candle, make certain that the dyes do not contain hazardous solvents or additives such as naptha or naphthalene.
Packaging. While it doesn’t have so much to do with your indoor air quality, there are eco-friendly considerations including packaging and what kind of container is used for your candle. To cut down on waste, we strongly prefer minimal or no packaging, whenever possible. If your candle must be packaged for shipping or protection from the elements, choose a recyclable and/or reusable option. Some candles don’t require a container if they are poured into molds (pillars, candlesticks, etc.). But, choose a reusable glass, ceramic, or metal container that offers safe surface protection when you burn your candle.
Now Go Enjoy The Ambiance. We sincerely hope you found this post informative. We take our responsibility seriously to offer the best products we can find that are better for you, for the environment, and still affordable. At the same time we remain committed to educating the community about sustainability issues and we invite you to subscribe to our blog.
Please feel free to get in touch with us using the form below if you have comments or questions about this blog post.
Founder of Green Haven Living, a Veteran of the United States Air Force, former Human Resources professional, and Environmentalist.