Updated: Mar 12
Is paraffin wax bad for you?
Without even realizing it, you may be burning paraffin throughout your home while exposing yourself to the health hazards associated with it. If burning candles is a part of your daily routine, it’s time to educate yourself on their history, the harms of paraffin wax, and why you should discontinue using candles made from it.
Since the Roman era, people around the world have used candles for both practical and pleasurable purposes. Although they originally started as instruments of light, they eventually became a tool for producing lofty scents whenever they were lit.
In days gone by, candles were often made from an animal fat called tallow. As time went on, other ingredients came into play, paraffin wax among them.
Although paraffin has played an important role in candles over the years, now's the time to begin looking elsewhere. But first, let's learn about where it comes from and why it isn't the healthiest ingredient to use in candles.
What are the biggest harms associated with burning paraffin wax?
If you’ve ever found yourself rubbing your eyes to relieve irritation not long after lighting a candle, you may have experienced the short-term effects of paraffin wax. As an eye irritant, it won’t affect everyone in the same way. However, it can cause itching, tearing, and sometimes soreness. So, if you want to be kind to your eyes, it’s a good idea to look elsewhere for candles.
Sore eyes are only the tip of the iceberg, though. There are other ways that paraffin candle waxes can harm your health:
The main focus of this article is on the hazards of soot and lead. I thought I should include this list of chemicals normally found in paraffin candles:
Acrolein, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde exceeding EPA safety thresholds, dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, didecyl phthalate, toluene, styrene, benzene, styrene, toluene, ethyl benzene, naphthalene, benzaldehyde, benzene,ethanol, and 2-butanone (methyl ethyl ketone) and acetone.
With the craze for gel candles you can add in mineral oil, terpene-type chemicals, modified hydrocarbons & viscosity increasing chemicals.
Is soy wax a good alternative to paraffin wax?
The second most popular wax that you probably know of is soy wax this is fairly new to the candle scene; it is 100% natural vegetable wax made from the oil of soybeans. The beans are cleaned, cracked and de-hulled – de pipped essentially – and rolled into flakes. The oil can then be extracted from the flakes and hydrogenated. The process of hydrogenation consists of converting the oil from unsaturated to saturated. This process is what makes the wax solid at room temperature. The leftover bean cases are then used in animal feed – how more sustainable can you get!?
This makes it a solid alternative to paraffin – so summarize its plant based, natural and no nasties added to it, it makes it one of the most eco-friendly waxes and gets the thumbs up from us! You can’t tell me after reading all the above you don’t want to jump on the soy bandwagon and never go back?!
But wait! You may want to park the soy wagon for now and get on board with an equally natural alternative, and that's coconut wax.
Why is coconut wax good for candles?
Sustainable and obtained via a natural process.
Coconut wax is produced by pressing the oil out of the coconut meat and goes through the process of hydrogenation. It is filtered and cleaned giving you 100% natural, and fully biodegradable wax.
It is a renewable and high yield crop which means less coconuts are needed to get a sizable about of product. Making it one of the most eco-friendly waxes on the market. A little goes a long way!
Fun fact – A life span of coconut tree is 60 – 80 years! It is known as the ‘Three generation tree’ because it can provide and support a farmer, his children and his grandchildren. How amazing it that?