Candles make everything special – unless their wicks are made from lead and the candle itself is full of chemicals that could cause cancer. Sound too dramatic? It’s not. Candles with lead-core wicks release five times the amount of lead considered to be dangerous for children (see note at end about lead-core wicks). Candles made from paraffin, a petroleum by-product, release carcinogenic soot when burned. Safer alternatives are those that use a cotton or paper wick, and are either unscented or scented with essential oils.
The candles themselves should be made with 100 percent soy, beeswax, coconut wax, hemp oil, or some combination that doesn’t contain any paraffin.
Here are 7 candles to look for when you shop:
1) Way Out Wax – This Morrisville, Vermont company makes candles both out of one hundred percent beeswax and from a combination of vegetable wax and hemp oil wax. The wick is cotton or hemp, and any fragrance is derived by essential plant oils. By the way, to minimize soot, trim wicks to 1/4 inch, and do not burn candles near a draft.
2) Ava – Try their peppermint candle, made with organic coconut wax, organic beeswax, and natural cotton wicks, and infused with pure essential oils. It will burn 45-50 hours.
3) Big Dipper Wax Works – These 100 percent beeswax candles come as long tapers, stocky pillars, votives and tea lights, and in charming sculpted molds like stars, hearts, and pumpkins.
4) Emz Blendz - These pure soy wax candles are sold as pillars or in glass jars you can use in your bathroom or when you travel. Enjoy such natural fragrance combinations as lemongrass sage, cranberry spice, or coconut lime.
5) BeSem Natural Scents — BeSe, is Hebrew for “pure, natural, a sweet smell.” Enjoy these homemade candles sold in Mason jars. I got a kick out of the “Old Hippie” soy candle perfumed with patchouli and sandalwood.
6) Honey Candles — These 100% pure beeswax candles offer a warm glow, soft honey scent, and air purifying effects that don’t release toxins. Plus, the company supports the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees and re-melts left-over beeswax into tins and sends them to families in need.
7) Sunbeam Candles, Inc. — Sunbeam uses solar power to hand-craft beautiful beeswax, soy wax and aromatherapy candles with, as they say, “the purest ingredients available at the least cost to Mother Earth.” Their candle shop is solar-powered, they ship carbon-neutral ,and – here’s a first for me – are a “certified living wage employer.” Choose from among beeswax, soy wax, and aromatherapy candles that only use 100% pure essential oils for scenting.
By the way, though the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned candles containing lead wicks in 2003, they still may be sold in dollar and discount stores. To figure out whether a candle has a lead wick, follow these steps from Green America:
1) Look for a “lead-free” label or statement when shopping for new candles.
2) For unburnt candles, rub the tip of the wick on a piece of paper. If it leaves a gray mark, like a pencil, the wick contains a lead core. If you’ve already purchased the candle, take it back to the store and tell the manager why you’re demanding a refund.
3) For candles that have already been burned, you should just throw out any that have metal cores as a precaution. Simply look at the tip of the wick and see if it has a metal core. You may need to peel back some of the cotton to find the core. If it’s metal, toss it.