I live in an apartment in Georgia. My walls are covered in soot. If I take a rag and wipe any wall in my apartment it comes back completely black. I was told after the apartment’s vents and filters were checked by management that it is being caused by cigarette smoke and burning candles. I do not do either in excess and cannot believe that the soot is being caused by either. Have you ever heard of this? Does it sound like a health hazard, and do you have any suggestions for cleaning after I have repainted the apartment?
Unfortunately, you have unwittingly stumbled upon an emerging and serious air quality concern: soot from candles. The major culprits are scented and aromatherapy candles. I came across this problem because a friend’s office was covered in soot after burning an aromatherapy candle, and his computer had to be completely overhauled because of soot damage! One expert told me he was lucky his computer was not ruined. There is so much soot generated from some burning candles that it is causing severe damage to many homes and furnishings, and homeowners are mistakenly suing their builders, furnace and H/VAC companies for improper installation of the systems.
Unfortunately, soot from candles can also be very toxic. Breathing soot is not recommended at all. The soot particles can travel deep into the lungs. Those with asthma, lung or heart disease are particularly vulnerable. To make matters worse, most scented and aromatherapy candles are made with paraffin and fragrance oils. Paraffin is a petroleum product—a byproduct of oil refining—and most fragrance oils used for candle making are petroleum-based synthetics. The soot from these materials can contain carcinogens, neurotoxins and reproductive toxins.Testing and air chamber analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency has found the following compounds, in significant quantity, in a random group of over 30 candles tested.
- Carbon disulfide
- 2- Butanone
- 1, 1, 1-Trichloroethane
- Carbon tetrachloride
- Carbon Black (soot) Particulate Matter <2.5 microns
- Lead (Inorganic Airborne Contaminant)
Besides these chemicals, Kaiss K. Al-Ahmady, Ph.D., P.E., of Indoor Air Solutions, Inc. of Tampa Florida, found in testing of over 20 candles, that 30 percent of the metal wire wicks used in some candles can contained lead.
The reason scented and aromatherapy candles are the usual culprits is because the fragrance oils are unsaturated hydrocarbons and they soften the wax so that it does not burn cleanly. Container candles are even worse since the oxygen necessary for a clean burn does not reach the flame properly.
After reading about soot, I am almost ready to give up my unscented 100 percent beeswax candles with no wire in their wicks! Diffusers are a safer way to practice aromatherapy, and they are available in most health food stores.