Which Candles Emit Carcinogens?

As the days start their slow climb toward the winter solstice I always find myself lighting more and more candles to compensate for the diminishing sunlight. I love the warmth and flicker of light they can infuse a room with, rooms otherwise flat by the increasingly muted autumn and winter skies. Yet while candles can create a lovely mood, some types also create toxic emissions that are hardly worth the ambiance.

The candle culprits? Paraffin wax candles. These candles, which are made from petroleum, are a source of known human carcinogens and indoor pollution, researchers said in a study presented last month at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Washington, D.C. In the study, R. Massoudi and Amid Hamidi found that candles made from beeswax or soy, although more expensive, are safer because they do not release potentially harmful pollutants.

“An occasional paraffin candle and its emissions will not likely affect you,” Hamidi said in a news release from the American Chemical Society. “But lighting many paraffin candles every day for years or lighting them frequently in an unventilated bathroom around a tub, for example, may cause problems.” Hamidi also said that some people who believe they have an indoor allergy or respiratory irritation may actually be reacting to pollutants from burning candles. They noted that ventilation can help reduce the level of pollutants in closed rooms–but I say, better yet: switch to a healthier alternative!

Next: fragrance and your best bet

Another part of the healthy candle discussion is centered around fragrance–synthetic fragrance, by which the majority of candles are made fragrant by. A study performed by the EPA found that numerous potentially hazardous chemicals are commonly used in synthetic fragrance, including acetone, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, camphor, ethanol, ethyl acetate, limonene, linalool, and methylene chloride.

So, your best bet? Unscented, 100 percent beeswax candles with a cotton wick are the safest option–but aren’t suitable for vegan candle-lovers who should opt for unscented soy-based candles. There are also a number of other vegetable wax based candles on the market; just make sure you are avoiding paraffin and synthetic fragrance.

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Fi T.
Fi T.about a month ago

For the good of ourselves and our family

H M.
H M.about a month ago

I threw away that pet odor neutralizing candle. It was partly soy, but it had a metal wick. I should contact the vet's office about them.

Erika Acosta
Erika Acosta3 months ago


Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoniabout a year ago


Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoniabout a year ago


Kamia T.
Kamia T.about a year ago

With dogs running around the house 24-7 I don't find candles very safe any more. We get plenty of heat and flickering light from the wood stove, and have all-mounted oil lamps in case we need light when the electricity is out.

Eric Anderson
Eric Anderson2 years ago

I had no idea about it. Thanks much for the share.
Any idea about their candles - http://www.real-staging.com/decor/candles.html

Vicki R.
Vicki R.5 years ago

Please NEVER use anything with Palm wax or oil unless If your palm wax candles are not certified by the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), you may not know you are contributing to the destruction of rainforests, loss of animal habitat, animal extinction, and the livelihood of native peoples. Remember, just because it is natural, doesn’t mean it is always earth friendly or cruelty free. Tens of thousands of wild orangatans have been barbarically slaughtered with guns and machetes, due to the ever-growing demand for palm oil plantations. Most of the plantations are in Borneo and Sumatra, and the atrocities are not going to stop any time soon. It is estimated 90% of orangutan habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia has already been lost and over 5,000 perish every year.

I buy and sell in my store Mia Bella candles made from vegetables. Made in the USA and the longest burning candles ever.

When eating and using products always use compassion please. xo

Annalaura Brown
Past Member 5 years ago

I love the candles I sell which are made from eco-friendly palm wax. I have had several people tell me they get headaches with paraffin candles but can burn mine just fine.

Tammy Smith
Tammy Smith5 years ago