What’s the Healthiest Candle?

by Head Health Nutter on January 8, 2011

Did you know that most of the candles on the market are toxic? But candle-light is so elegant, so relaxing… there must be a healthier alternative. There is! In today’s post we learn about beeswax candles and why health-conscious families choose them.

One of the best Christmas presents I ever received was an Original Pheylonian Beeswax Candle. These particular homemade Canadian candles (sold worldwide) use 100% pure cappings beeswax so they are completely natural, non-toxic, non-allergenic, non-carcinogenic and actually clean the air much like plants do!

Although they are more expensive, they’re also more cost-effective due to a high melting point (approximately 145F°). According to the candle makers, who compared the most expensive paraffin or veg wax to beeswax, found their Pheylonian candles burn 40 to 80% cheaper per minute, translating into an average of 10 cents per hour.

Beeswax also gives off a natural, relaxing, sweet smell and is both smokeless and dripless (two properties not found together in any other animal or mineral wax).

And these are just the highlights! But before we explain how beeswax purifies the air and list even more potential benefits, let’s review some facts about other types of wax.

Why is Paraffin Unhealthy?

Breathing the fumes from burning paraffin candles is essentially the same as breathing the exhaust fumes from a diesel engine.

According to a study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (used to support soy farming), burned paraffin candles emit many pollutants including benzene, toluene and ketones, all of which have been linked to asthma, cancer and birth defects. (Source: NYDailyNews.com)

Paraffin is the non-renewable, inexpensive grayish black ooze and crud (by-products) from gas and petroleum refineries. It’s then treated and bleached with chemical solvents to clean it up for use in candles. When paraffin wax, sterno and liquid paraffin are burned, they release deadly chemicals, fluro carbons and dioxins into the air.

Then, since burning petrochemical paraffin is so stinky, synthetic fragrances are added, many of which are irritating, reduce olfactory sensitivity and are toxic themselves when burned.

If these chemicals weren’t enough, those who sell beeswax candles claim that all paraffin has a chemical component used to solidify the wax called `acrolyn,’ and variations of it, which they say is a proven carcinogen. Apparently, this solidifier is also used in vegetable and soy wax candles.

Note: I gave up after about 30 minutes of online research trying to find another type of source (one without a vested interest) to back this up.

For an interesting read, the Pheylonian beeswax candle makers tell a story about acrolyn, explain how toxic paraffin candles are and warn us how current laws allow companies to label candles as `pure beeswax’ using as little as 10% beeswax.

Negative Ions: Nature’s Air Purifier

Nature produces negative ions through lightening storms, moving water like the ocean, waterfalls, rivers, etc. and by wind passing through forests. It cleanses the air of pollutants (dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, viruses, odours and toxins) through an electrical process.

Annie Bond in her Care2.com article explains:

Air contains billions of electrically charged particles called ions. Ions act upon our capacity to absorb and utilize oxygen, and therefore cause powerful effects on our lives and well being. The ions in the air can affect our mood, energy and health. Negative ions actually feel good. Too many positive ions make us feel bad and they are loaded down with pollution and allergens that are drawn to them and suspended in the air. Negative ions, on the other hand, remove the pollution and allergens from positive ions, allowing them to drop harmlessly to the ground.

Beeswax candle fuel is the only fuel that actually produces negative ions, which not only helps remove pollution from the air but increases the ratio of negative ions to positive ions, the ideal and necessary scenario for clean air.

Beeswax Produce Negative Ions

The last part of Ms. Bond’s quote, “beeswax candle fuel is the only fuel that actually produces negative ions” appears to be debatable according to the results of a recent Japanese study reported by fellow blogger Jane from Simple, Sustainable, Nature.

Although the study proves beeswax emits negative ions when burned, it also found that even paraffin candles emit negative ions, but at a significantly lower volume.

Either way, when I burn my beeswax candle (usually in the bathroom when soaking in a hot tub), I notice a significant difference in air quality. Especially compared to burning a paraffin candle! I did so last night and not only was the scent stifling, when I extinguished the candle I all but choked on the smoke.

Interesting:

Apparently, you can actually see how polluted your air is when burning a beeswax candle! Valerie Reiss blogged about how one beeswax candle maker (though, the link to their site was dead when I tried it) said the dustier your home, the more “black debris” will collect around the wick. I checked my candle – all’s good!

And the Pheylonian beeswax candle makers warn: “Do not burn paraffin at the same time as you burn beeswax. Due to the negative ion properties of pure beeswax, the black soot from the paraffin will become all to evident on your ceilings, walls and all static surfaces such as vinyl windows, computers, etc.”

Negative Ions & Health

Intuitively, the cleaner the air, the healthier. But I didn’t get that far in the research.

However, Dr. Jonathan Wright reports anecdotal research on his TahomaClinicBlog about how people claim beeswax candles provide relief of allergies, sinus problems and asthma. He also supports Ms. Bond’s conclusions, claims tainted beeswax doesn’t have the health benefits of 100% pure beeswax candles, and admits he’s affiliated with a beeswax candle company.

But if you want to go pure beeswax, just in case…

The makers of my Pheylonian beeswax candle promise their “candles are made of 100% Cappings Beeswax. Cappings are the thin layer of pure beeswax which seal in the fresh honey into each comb. Beekeepers remove this to extract the honey. This is all we buy and use.”

They also suggest that these hair-thin cappings wax, compared to the rest of the honeycomb, is the most “desirable, pure, air-cleansing wax, perfectly created by the honey bees, in conjunction with Mother Nature herself.”

They still make their candles like their ancestors who came from the Carpathian Mountains in the Ukraine to Canada in the early 1900′s! Read their rich family story here.

Although others may need more research before investing in beeswax candles, I vote all-natural is healthier! I love my Pheylonian beeswax candle and suggest you try one yourself (visit their e-shop when you’re ready).

Do you have a beeswax candle? Have you noticed any difference when you burn one compared with another type of candle?


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Emmanuel Lopez-Motivatorman January 12, 2011 at 9:57 am

Love, love, love this post on the healthiest candle Steph! The world needs to know about all these damaging facts about paraffin wax and the POWER of bees wax!

Thank you for helping the world recognize the truths of what they are taking for granted every day. Especially when they can start doing things to live a longer, healthier life!

Reply

Head Health Nutter January 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm

You’re most welcome, Emmanuel!

Actually, I should thank YOU because you reminded me about the health benefits of burning beeswax when you told me you purchased beeswax tea lights right before the holidays! :)

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Darrell February 6, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Can you please provide a citation to the “Japanese study” that supports the claim that beeswax candles emit negative ions? I cannot locate it anywhere although it’s mentioned a lot casually in the blogosphere. I have also emailed Jane via her blog.

Thanks,
D-

Reply

Head Health Nutter February 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm

HI Darrell, thanks for your important question. I had some limited time for research and couldn’t find much either about where the study was published (if it was at all).

The only details about the study I found was on the Canadian Beeswax Chandler’s Guild, published by BusyBeeBeeswax.ca (who sells beeswax candles): http://www.busybeebeeswax.ca/negativeions.html.

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Darrell February 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Thanks so much for your reply :) Unfortunately, that is the only other source (or at least all other claims lead back to that source) that I can find. I can’t find any data to substantiate these claims, which is rather unfortunate. And I’m an information professional (professional researcher/librarian in training).

Oh well, thanks for trying :)

D-

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janeisgreen February 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Head Health Nutter & Darrell: You probably haven’t noticed that I’ve updated my post about the negative ions: http://www.smallbones.ca/blog/finally-evidence-that-beeswax-emits-the-most-negative-ions
I located the source of my source, and was discouraged.
BTW, soy candles are not natural & sustainable, either. Please see http://www.smallbones.ca/blog/the-lowdown-on-candle-waxes
Jane/Smallbones

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Darrell February 28, 2012 at 10:11 am

Thanks Jane, I did see the update and appreciate it. I just read your other article re: soy candles and left a comment. I didn’t know about the issue with soy wax, very interesting, but I was curious about the comment re: the American Lung Association recommending the use of beeswax candles as I cannot find a direct source for it, only passing references to it on various blogs. Do you happen to have a citation from the ALA directly endorsing the use of beeswax candles specifically?

I find that many companies and blogs make various and sundry claims and certain businesses or people (naturally) pick up on those claims without verifying it firsthand by finding an actual source. This can be dangerous to a small business owner because it can become quite a liability to make certain claims without verifying them, and I wouldn’t want any small businesses to suffer because they heard a claim from a friend of a friend or a random source and believed it to be true :-/

Again, it’s probably the information professional/science/factually-oriented part of me coming out :) But I really would love to know how this whole negative ion thing works with beeswax candles, if anybody does find a study.

Bizzy B February 8, 2012 at 7:26 am

Thanks for another very healthy & informed post Stephanie! I knew that natural beeswax candles were good ~ so I have used & like them. I haven’t used paraffin or petrochemicals for the past 10 years (cheap candles are a clue to poor quality) However, your source contradicts mine about natural soy based candles, so I will need some clarification from Melaleuca of Canada. I think it’s good that they use the better zinc wicks rather than toxic lead ones though, which is something else to consider.

Reply

Head Health Nutter February 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Bizzy B, please let us know what you find out from Melaleuca of Canada about soy candles, and thank you for suggesting we consider what the wicks are made from, too!

Reply

janeisgreen February 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Darrell: You’ll see my reply on the blog post.

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Darrell March 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Hi Jane, saw it thanks again SO MUCH for your thoughtful reply, I really appreciate it. I agree, regardless of the research, from my own anecdotal experience I can say that I prefer pure beeswax candles. Even ignoring the supposed benefits re: ions and asthma (I am mildly asthmatic), I prefer the clean but not annoying scent and the ecological/green properties over petroleum products.

Cheers!
D-

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Diane December 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I’ve been burning two candles a day since early Oct. Not coughing as much, my two cats are not throwing up as much. sorry it took me so long to discover all the benefits of beeswax candles! I have found some beekeepers that are willing to sell me their wax, plan on making my own.

Reply

Head Health Nutter January 13, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Hi Diane, thanks for sharing your testimonial here on Live Lighter! Perhaps it’ll convince others to try beeswax candles for themselves, and help them increase their health. Oh, and good on ya for making your own – that’ll save you a ton of money in the long term.

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