Candles are some of the trendiest items on the markets these days. They are used for a lot of reasons, such as; illumination or lighting, the provision of warmth and – the latest and trendiest of all uses – aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy is a field of treatment which is mostly used in alternative medicine. It is a field that has been in existence for thousands of years, with roots in various cultures across the world, including Ancient Egypt, Ancient India and other places in the world with vast histories in the usage of essential oils derived from parts of medicinal plants, spices etc


Candles are made up of different types of materials, depending on what is used to make them. For instance, paraffin wax candles are different in composition to tallow candles. Tallow candles have different compositions to beeswax candles. Beeswax candles have different chemical compositions to palm wax candles and so on.

The kinds of additives that are added to candles also go a long way in determining the type of gases or effluents that would be emitted when the candles are burned. This is because the type of dyes and fragrances used in making any candle has an effect on the chemical – and sometimes, physical properties – of the candles. For instance, these additives (coupled with the type of candle wax used) usually accounts for the structure and stability of the candle while it is burned and used over time. These factors tend to affect how fast a candle melts or burns down, how stable it is under the effect of sharp temperature changes, the kind of fragrance, aroma or volatile materials released when the candle is burned and so on.

Examples of the materials released when candles are burned include the following:

  • Formaldehyde

A lot of candles, particularly those that are scented and made of paraffin wax, are usually known to contain some quantity of formaldehyde in the form of volatile gases given off during burning. Soy candles are also known to release formaldehyde in minute amounts.

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogenic, which can lead to the formation of cancer in people over time. However, it should be noted that the amount of formaldehyde released, when candles are burned, is very small and can only cause harm to people who are particularly sensitive to formaldehyde. Otherwise, it is only when large quantities of these candles are burned over time, in places with improper ventilation (and the volatile gases released are allowed to accumulate) that they usually cause harm to human health (i.e. the people who spend time inhaling the fumes of the candle).

  • Benzene

Benzene is another gas, which is released when candles are burned. In large amounts, benzene can affect the cells in a person’s blood vessels and prevent them from working well. For instance, if it affects a person’s bone marrow, the individual may not be able to produce red blood cells in appropriate amounts and levels. But candles tend to produce very little benzene, and so, a large number of them have to be burned in places of poor ventilation before they can have such adverse effects on a person’s health.

  • Soot

Soot is a material which is typically black or powdery in nature. It is made up of amorphous carbon and is usually produced as a result of incomplete combustion. When a candle experiences incomplete combustion when it burns, it can sometimes give off soot; the more the rate of incomplete combustion, the more the amount of soot that will be given off by the candle.



Another factor that affects things such as the amount of soot a candle can produce while it is burning, and other properties that may contribute to the detriment of a person’s health or global warming is the type of wick used in making candles.

The different types of wicks which can be used in making candles include the following:

  • Zinc core wicks

Zinc cored wicks are the most rigid out of all the cored wicks in the market. They are usually used in the making of container candles, votives and tea light candles. Among the three types of cored wicks (i.e. zinc, paper and cotton cored wicks), zinc core wicks burn at the least amount of temperature (i.e. they burn coolest). Zinc core candles produce very little soot, compared to some other types of cored wicks.

  • Paper core wicks

Paper core wicks are more rigid than cotton core wicks, and they also burn cooler. It is mostly used with paraffin waxes and is made up of natural fibers.

  • Cotton core wicks

Cotton core wicks have a great reputation for burning very cleanly (particularly when the wicks are made completely out of natural cotton fibers).


Soot is one of the materials released during candle burning (especially in the event of incomplete combustion). However, unlike many other effluents of candle burning, which are gaseous in nature, soot does not disperse or disintegrate very easily. Instead, this powdery black material has a knack for settling on the surfaces of materials and objects in the rooms where candles are burned. Apart from staying on materials (and thereby making them dirtier or difficult to clean), soot can also get into materials and equipments, and this is where a lot of their danger lies…because they can also get into people when they are inhaled).

When soot is inhaled, it may find its way into a person’s respiratory system where it can constitute a lot of damage and harm to a person’s respiratory organs and their ability to breathe. Also, upon inhalation, soot can also find its way into a person’s bloodstream where it can cause serious harm (e.g. it can block arteries etc). And when this happens, a person’s health can be severely threatened.

Therefore, it is safe to say that: “Yes. Black soot from candles can indeed be very dangerous.”

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