January 19, 2019

Are your candles toxic?

By Megan Dorcey
Are your candles toxic?

Like most people, I had always assumed that because a product was on the shelves at the store, that it must have gone through some kind of regulatory scrutiny. As I've mentioned in other posts, the only reason I sought out this information was because I was on a mission to clean up my chemical footprint within my house. I wanted to know how to make the air we were breathing cleaner, but little did I know that those scented candles I was bringing into our home and lighting on a daily basis were filling the air with toxins.

Wellness as a whole is a topic of conversation that continues to grab attention not only in media but in our daily lives as more companies are using trendy health-focused language and designs to market to consumers. You might be walking down a cereal aisle and see more than one message boasting organic, natural, gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, or non-GMO products in hopes to draw in more consumers.

With all the labels, it can be easy to confuse the meaning behind those wellness buzz words. What does "grass fed" mean compared to "pasture-raised"? What's the difference between "natural" and "organic"? And if you venture a few aisles over in your grocery store, you'll find hair, skin, and beauty products with similar marketing tag lines. 

One aisle in your typical supermarket that hasn't caught on to this wellness craze is the candle aisle. There is a reason this; the candle industry (as well as the perfume industry) is not required by law to share ingredients like many other products that we purchase on a daily basis. Not only does the federal government help keep this information under wraps, many brands believe that they have the right to keep ingredient lists from consumers because of the proprietary nature of the formulas. This is an easy way for an entire industry to create products that are harmful to the health of the consumer without anyone ever knowing.

At Pomeroy 142, we're not just here to sell non-toxic scented candles; we aim to bring as much information as possible to the public which is why we wanted to share some common candle ingredients and what it all means. So let's break down some common words you might find on a candle label (or not!) so that you can make informed decisions next time you're choosing the perfect scented candle for your home.

Paraffin wax

This common wax is a petroleum-based ingredient that when lit emits the airborne chemicals acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, toluene, benzene and acrolein. All of which are linked to asthma, cognitive issues, learning development issues, and lung cancer to name a few. Most candles that don't state soy or coconut wax are typically paraffin wax. We NEVER use this!


Phthalates are a large class of chemicals found in nearly all consumer goods. They're the chemicals that make things like plastics and hairspray flexible. In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues. Here's the kicker - companies are not required to list phthalates on the ingredients list. Again, not anything we would EVER use.

Wax Blends

You might notice candles that say things like "soy blend" or "coconut blend" - those waxes are typically mixed with paraffin wax. Why? As mentioned earlier, paraffin wax helps retain more scent and burns more evenly. If you see something like "soy coconut blend" that is likely just those two single ingredients, but beware of a single ingredient blend. I also recommend looking up the brand online to see if they're transparent about ingredients. Most companies that use non-toxic ingredients will be upfront about it and won't make you go digging around. (See below for our list of what we do and do not use)


The big debate! There are three ways to create a scented candle: Essential oils, synthetic fragrance, or natural fragrance.

Essential oils require massive amounts of plant material that are then distilled into small quantities of the oils. A candle made with only essential oils requires more of the oil than a synthetic fragrance making it costly. There are also debates about the environmental impact of essential oils as it promotes mono-cropping and often times results in massive waste. 

Synthetic fragrances are made in a laboratory from synthetic compounds and composed almost entirely of petroleum by-products such as benzene derivatives, aldehydes, toluene, and other known toxic chemicals. They are much cheaper, offer greater variety, and utilize scent binders like phthalates to help retain their aroma for a longer period of time.

Natural fragrance oils are also created in a lab, but are done so by isolating a natural aromatic component from a complex scent (isolates). These are part of something real versus man-made like synthetic oils. This is the same process that is used to obtain essential oils. 

Lead core wicks

Up until recently, most paraffin wax candles contained a lead-core wick - so unknowingly, we were all breathing in toxic fumes that the lead wicks were releasing. 

So what do we use?

Instead of waiting for regulations to catch up, we wanted to make sure that our ingredients are visible to the public and we're also clear about what we don't put in each of our candles.

We use soy wax derived from U.S. farms. Almost all soy plants have been genetically modified (an estimated 94%), so we can't guarantee that ours are GMO-free. Our soy wax provider uses organic plants, but due to the process of extracting the wax, it isn't qualified to be labeled or certified organic. We've considered using beeswax until we learned that extracting beeswax harms bee populations and we need our bees!

We use natural fragrance oils. Not only does this allow us to create a candle that the majority of customers can afford, but it also means we aren't harvesting endangered plants like sandalwood for the benefit of a human luxury such as a candle.

Our wicks are 100% cotton.

We use vendors who utilize carbon-neutral shipping and our packaging is made from recycled materials. A lot of companies are sending far too much packaging for their products and we try our best to eliminate unnecessary packaging materials as much as possible. 

Are you ready to swap out your run-of-the-mill candle for something cleaner? Check out our line of non-toxic soy candles.

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