Q. Are soy candles better than ordinary wax ones?
A. I love candlelight and until recently there didn’t seem to be much difference between traditional wax ones and those made from soybean oil and beeswax. However, new research from South Carolina State University, presented to the American Chemical Society, shows that burning conventional candles based on paraffin (a by-product of petroleum) may generate undesirable indoor pollutants.
In the study, researchers burned paraffin- and soy-based candles in separate boxes for six hours, after which they compared air quality. They found that the paraffin-based candles emitted toxic chemicals, such as toluene and benzene, but the soy ones did not. They concluded that regular use of paraffin-based candles in poorly ventilated spaces could contribute to health problems, such as asthma and allergies.
Candles made with soybean oil and beeswax – which are renewable resources - are a more planet-friendly choice. They also tend to burn cleaner, and for longer. Whichever candle you choose, if it’s scented, make sure that it contains natural essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances which may irritate the respiratory tract.
Always air out a room after burning candles or incense: according to a study in the journal Cancer, being frequently exposed to burning incense in badly ventilated rooms over long periods of time increases the risk of being diagnosed with upper respiratory tract cancers.