The Smart-Shopper’s Guide to Non-Toxic Candles

By Marilee Nelson |

The Smart-Shopper’s Guide to Non-Toxic Candles

With the gift-giving season upon us, we all love to fill our homes with the lovely scents and aromas of Christmas. The inviting warm glow of candlelight sets the mood for the season’s celebration.

For many of us scented candles are a favorite go-to gift, so it is important to make sure that the candles we gift and have in our homes are ones that do not compromise air quality or our health.

Unfortunately, most scented candles contain synthetic fragrances and are made of paraffin, a petroleum-based product, that even at room temperature can release dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home. These include phthalates that disrupt hormones, asthmagens that cause asthma, carcinogens that cause cancer, obesogens that cause weight gain, and neurotoxins that affect mood and brain function.

Light them up and from the wax to the wick, more problems are generated. When burned, they release formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, toluene, benzene, acetone and more especially if it is a dyed candle!

In addition to releasing carcinogenic chemicals, burning paraffin wax produces ultrafine soot with particulates that can remain suspended in the air for hours. They penetrate deeply into the lungs and are absorbed into the bloodstream.

These ultrafine particles have been directly associated with allergies, respiratory issues such as asthma, bronchitis, COPD, as well as heart attacks, strokes and cancer. The wicks are another issue of concern because the fragrance chemicals soften the wax so much that without metal, non-cored wicks go limp. Therefore many have a cored wick made from cotton wrapped around a metal support which keeps the wick from falling into the wax.

In 2003 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the manufacture of all candles with lead cores. However, they are still in many homes and candles made overseas may still have lead-containing wicks.*

It has also been found that all metal core wicks of zinc and tin also release trace amounts of heavy metals sometimes even lead. Burning these candles puts a very dangerous toxic load into your air.

*To check to see if a wick contains lead, take a sheet of white paper and rub it on the wick of the unused candle. If there is a grey pencil-like mark on the paper, then the wick contains lead.

Toss The Toxins For Your Health

Since scented candles are one of the most hazardous items found in our homes, grab a box, go through your house and remove them. This simple act (that is FREE!) is an act of love and a gift to your family.

This process eliminates significant immune stressors from your household. As we’ve discussed at length in previous articles, synthetic fragrances are one of the world’s top allergens, can contain over 200 chemical ingredients per scent, and have been referred to by scientists as “the new second-hand smoke”.

Which explains why these VOC-laden products have been linked to such pervasive health issues such as headaches, migraines, asthma, lung disease, cancers1, hormonal issues, infertility2...the list goes on and on. Breaking yourself from toxic candles will literally lift your mood and holiday spirit!

Healthy Candle Options

Replace scented candles and gift with 100% organic unscented beeswax candles with a cotton or wood wick.

When burned according to directions, they burn clean with no soot, no emission of chemicals, and they produce negative ions. This means that instead of polluting the air, they actually clean it!

The negative ions attract the positively charged particles in the air (includes dust, pollen, animal dander and odors) and drop them out of the air you are breathing to the floor.*

It gets even better...negative ions have been shown to increase levels of serotonin which uplifts mood, alleviates depression, de-stresses, and boosts energy. Beeswax candles are ideal for those with allergies, asthma, and sensitivities. You can feel good about enjoying the relaxing candle lit atmosphere provided by beeswax candles!

*These are cleaned up during your normal cleaning routine - HEPA vacuuming and dusting.

Our Favorite Brands of Non-Toxic Beeswax Candles

When looking for safe, non-toxic candles, all you need to do is look for unscented beeswax candles made with 100% beeswax, with 100% cotton wicks. If you choose a scented version only use those with wildcrafted or organic essential oils processed without solvents. But buyer-beware: candles can be labeled “beeswax candles” yet contain up to 50% paraffin or other material.

You can also find great deals on local beeswax at farmer’s markets, natural food stores, and through CSAs.

Beeswax candles give off a subtle fragrance that is naturally scented by the nectar of flowers and honey. For the very best ambiance of a flickering candle plus aroma, not combining a scent with combustion is desirable.*

Other Options for Holiday Ambiance

Put on a pot of simmering spices, make a stovetop potpourri, or create a pomander as a Christmas project with your kids!

Consider flameless candles - these are flickering candles that glimmer like natural candles but are powered by batteries. There are many types and sizes available online.

What About Other Less Toxic Options?

There are unscented, undyed, coconut or soy candles that are marketed as burning cleaner than their paraffin counterparts.

They are becoming very popular, but many still contain synthetic fragrances, dyes, and may contain a wax blend with as little as 25% coconut or soy wax (over 90% of soybeans from the U.S. are genetically modified).

Bottom line: these candles still release soot that contain ultrafine particles that are lung irritants.

  • 100% Coconut Wax
  • 100% Soy Wax

Know that while we list these options, unscented beeswax candles are the healthy home candle of choice!

We hope this helps you create the ambiance you want while not sacrificing your health! 

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.