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Olivia Fleming & Jenna Rosenstein
Sixteen years ago, most conventional candle wicks were made from lead cores to ensure the wicks would stand up straight. “You'd light it, and then you'd immediately be breathing in lead emissions, which would cause elevated levels of lead in the bloodstream,” explains Tara Foley, founder of Follian.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of lead in candle wicks in 2003, but poor air quality from candles remains an issue. Most candle brands today use paraffin, a petroleum-based wax which releases carcinogenic soot when burned. Add to that the synthetic fragrances used in candles, which, just like in beauty products, release potentially dangerous VOCs. “You're breathing that all in, and again, you don't know what's in it,” says Foley.
Do Clean Candles Exist?
The good news is, yes. Foley recommends looking for candles made from vegetable wax (like soy, beeswax, or non-GMO corn). “If it doesn't list a plant or vegetable wax, you should assume that it's a paraffin wax,” she explains. And the wick should always be cotton, preferably organic. “If you see a wick that's coated in a heavy coating, inquire as to what the coating is,” says Foley, noting that the coating is likely paraffin. “As a customer, you have a right to ask questions. You just need to know what questions to ask.”