There is nothing more romantic and beautiful than the snowy Carpathian Christmas followed by tunes of Frank Sinatra. This year, the scenery isn’t short of perfection. Wherever I take a look, I see the reflection of Heaven, especially in the dawn-time, when the sky is of the pinkish-orange color, and there is not a single cloud to be seen. In the evening, I usually light up candles, preferably in every room and hall. They’re charging the atmosphere with serenity, which calms my soul and mind. That raises the old question: “What’s preventing me from producing my own candles?”
I’m not a lazy person, nor indecisive, yet I couldn’t find the answers for two years, ever since the idea came to my mind. However, from experience, I know that a thing as little as a candle flame may affect our health, especially if used on a daily basis. Well, one thing is obvious, and that is the difference in the prices of waxes. That was the first indicator of possible differences in effects on our health. My curiosity led me to the discovery of the following differences in effects, which I want to share with you, ’cause they’re important, especially if you’re candles-lover and/or candles producer!
We will focus on four types of the most commonly used waxes:
- paraffin wax
- soy wax
- coconut wax
There are other, less known, and way more expensive waxes, such as candelilla, carnauba, Cera-Bellina, olive wax, however, it’s almost impossible to find candles for sale, that were made out of those four types, therefore, for the purposes of this article, we will be focused on the commonly used types.
Let’s separate candles into two categories: scented and unscented!
When I began researching the effects of candles on human health, quickly I found myself before a tsunami of scientific warnings regarding the dangers of scented candles. “But if that is true, why are they common and easy to find in any store?”, is a logical question, which has a logical answer: the candle-making business is “flying under the radar” for two reasons:
- candles do not seem dangerous
- scientific testings and results are relatively new, therefore, still unknown to the majority
A candles-making business is one of a few that you can start without the approval of the government, and/or any license. That’s why it’s the most common “DIY”! The problem with scented candles is that they are releasing various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including pleasant aromas and toxic components before and while burning.
Here is what the American Association for Cancer Research discovered in 2019 while researching the effects of scented candles on human health: “Taking under consideration known chemical carcinogenesis of bladder cancer, this minireview takes under investigation the possible link between using scented candles and risk of bladder cancer development. Burning scented candles contain many of the substances that are associated with bladder cancer. Furthermore, the scented candles are not only very popular but also widely available on the market, with limited quality regulations and unspecified raw materials determining a spectrum of potentially dangerous substances emitted during burning.”.
In another study, they discovered that scented candles (unlike unscented candles) cause lung inflammation and cancer in mice! That’s an alarming difference, isn’t it? It was enough for me to make a decision not to use nor produce scented candles! Now that you are warned of the (still) unknown effects, we can move to the unscented candles by starting with the cheapest and most common type: paraffin wax candles!
Two brilliant scientists from Poland, Sir Tomasz Olszowski and Sir Andrzej Kłos came to an interesting idea: researching the impact of candle burning during all Saints’ Day ceremonies on ambient alkyl-substituted benzene concentrations!
What they discovered is quite interesting: “During the festive period, significant increases in benzene concentrations, by 200 % and 144 %, were noted at the cemeteries in Opole and Grodków, as well as in toluene, by 366 % and 342 %, respectively. Styrene concentrations also increased. It was demonstrated that the ratio of toluene to benzene concentrations from emissions caused by the burning candles are comparable to the ratio established for transportation emissions.”
(effects of paraffin wax candles on human health shouldn’t surprise us too much, ’cause paraffin wax is obtained from petroleum by dewaxing light lubricating oil stocks)
Scientists of ESPR (Environmental Science and Pollution Research) confirmed that the wax quality strongly influences air pollutant emissions. In addition, they came to the conclusion that the purity of the raw materials and used additives play a key role.
In July 2021, Danish scientists published the results of the experiment that was funded by the IFD (Innovation Fund Denmark) and Ergonomics & Aerosol Technology at Lund University. Their findings proved my point: “I know that a thing as little as a candle flame may affect our health”. According to the results of the experiment, even wicks play an important role:
“All candles showed different emission profiles over time with high repeatability among replicates. The particle mass emissions from stressed burning for all candle types were dominated by soot (black carbon; BC). The wax and wick composition strongly influenced emissions of BC, PM2.5, and particle-phase polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and to a lower degree ultrafine particles, inorganic and organic carbon fraction of PM, but did not influence NOx, formaldehyde, and gas-phase PAHs.”
Effects of burning candles that were made of other wax types haven’t been published, yet, however, beeswax was proven to be beneficial for human health (only when used in forms other than candles). It is rich in polyphenols and offers antimicrobial activity (the few studies showed antimicrobic effectiveness of beeswax against overall Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella-enterica, Candida albicans, and Aspergillus N.). Thanks to its rich hydrophobic protective properties, beeswax is in fact present within cosmetics and body products. Also, beeswax is used in the food industry (as a film to wrap cheese for maturing or as a food additive (E901) to give shine to the products). It is thought to be particularly effective in healing bruises, inflammation, and burns.
If you carry out a google search for “coconut wax benefits” or “soy wax benefits”, you’ll find plenty of THEORIES. None of the authors can back their claims with the results of scientific experiments. The following statements regarding the coconut wax are valid:
- coconut wax is the only truly-unscented wax
- it is the second cheapest wax, therefore, it’s affordable
- it is the slowest-burning wax
When compared with soy wax, coconut is an absolute winner! In fact, as a truly unscented, yet, affordable and slow-burning, coconut wax is the “winner of this contest”. The effects of beeswax candles haven’t been published, yet, while the price thereof is quite high. Paraffin wax is a “NO GO ZONE”, just as scented candles (regardless of the wax type).
Therefore, if you’re a lover of candles, I warmheartedly recommend those that were made of coconut wax!