If you've ever suffered stomach distress after dinner by candlelight or oil lamp, it might not have been the food...Here's what restaurant owners, Perfect Hosts and all of us need to know about paraffin candles...
Paraffin Candles: The Nasty Facts
What is Paraffin?
- Paraffin is extracted from the sludge (called “slack wax” because of its oil content) left from the processing of crude oil. It is a waste product. The oil industry is delighted to have found a use for paraffin: the burning of candles in homes, restaurants and churches.
- After the slack wax is obtained, solvents are added to further extract leftover oil.
- To remove unwanted colour, the product is then passed through a bed of clay: after this filtration, the clay bed is passed through a furnace, which burns off the chemicals left from the paraffin filtration—and where do you suppose those chemicals wind up? In the air.
- To remove unwanted odour, the wax is passed through a vacuum stripping tower, which uses water or steam to remove more chemicals (and where do they go?).
- In scented candles, the addition of chemically synthesized fragrances increases the soot levels, asthmatic and other allergic reactions and carcinogenic compounds. Because paraffin tends to neutralize essential oils (which are steam distilled from herbs, fruits, bark, spices or flowers), the candle industry uses manmade chemical fragrances in paraffin candles. Besides, chemical fragrances are much, much cheaper than essential oils.
- Although using lead in wicks is prohibited, many candle producers (particularly from other countries) still do so. Lead has been used to make the wicks stiff, so they stand up while the candle burns. The lead is vaporized on burning, and rises into the air, where it is inhaled.
If You're Burning Paraffin, You're Breathing Poison
In a random group of over 30 candles tested, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found:
carbon black (soot) particulate matter
trichlo-roethene tetrachloroethene toluene
xylene styrene phenol
cresol chlorobenzene ethylbenzene
Some of these chemicals have been identified as known cancer-causing agents. Others cause lung, kidney and liver and eye damage, skin burns and birth defects.
Paraffin candles (especially scented ones) can cause allergic reactions, dermatitis, lung problems, asthma attacks and even stomach upsets. Paraffin candles, being petroleum products, emit soot, which deposits on walls, furnishings and art works (and in lungs). Beeswax and soy candles do not create soot.