Aromatherapy Candles Under Fire

Candle sales have been growing rapidly in the last 10 years (10 to 15% per year), fueled by consumer interest
in aromatherapy and increased demand for home fragrance products in general. However, candles have raised various health and environmental hazards of late.

According to a recent study by the environmental protection agency (EPA), the estimated total sales of candles in 1999 varied between $968 million and $2.3 billion. The EPA recently performed an extensive research study, gathering information regarding the emission of various contaminants generated when burning candles and incense, as well as the potential health effects associated with exposure to these contaminants.

The study reports that burning candles and especially aromatherapy candles can be harmful. Emmissions from improperly burning candles and lead wicks cause 'particulates' formed from organic materials. Scented candles are more likely to produce soot than unscented candles. These emissions may contain con-taminants
that can cause a variety of health effects, including mutagenic effects and airborne dermatitis.

Candles with lead-core wicks have been found on the market and have been shown to be a source of airborne lead when burned. Metal cores are used to stiffen wicks so they will not fall over and extinguish themselves as the surround-ing wax melts, however lead wicks are banned in the US. Most of the candles found in the study to contain lead wicks were im-ported.

EPA is currently testing emissions from candles and incense to generate data. The EPA study shows that one type of candle can produce as much as 100 times more soot than another. Spas that sell candles should choose candles with quality ingredients and educate their clients about potential safety hazards.

One such hazard is fire. The National Fire Protection Agencty reports an increase in deaths and injuries from candle-related fires. A spokesman for the New York Fire Department warns that aromatherapy candles are especially dangerous because of their relaxing effects. Lavender, for example, increases alpha brain waves which induces sleep.