Ask Annie B., For The Home

Brilliant Beeswax and Other Safer Candles


Ask AnnieDear Annie – What type of candles do you use, if any? Which do you think are the safest? – Jan, NM

Dear Jan –
I love candles and use them frequently. I have a healing practice and always try to remember to light a candle at the start of the healing. I like to light candles around the bathtub when I have a bath at night. I especially like to have candles around during the holidays. But not just any candles.

Pure beeswax candles are the best choice for the table because they are the least polluting. Beeswax candles are a golden amber color, and they’re just beautify; you even get the wafting scent of honey when you burn them. Beeswax candles last longer than paraffin candles and smoke very little as they burn. Natural beeswax candles can develop what looks like a bit of a frost on the sides, but this is normal.

When you are at the ocean, or on top of a mountain, and you get that uplifted feeling, it is because the air is rich in negative ions. Compare that to being in a traffic jam and hardly being able to breathe because of all the exhaust in the air. The pollution experience is when the air is full of positive ions. Odd that the positive means bad and the negative means good, but that is the way it is.

Beeswax candles give off negative ions, the good ions. Negative ions clean the air. Negative ions remove the pollution and allergens from positive ions, allowing them to drop harmlessly to the ground.

Best of all, beeswax candles offer a honey scent, and lend a honey hue to the room.

Vegetable wax (usually soy)  candles are your second-best choice.

Candle Soot

Many are finding that some aromatherapy candles produce very tenacious black soot, an emerging air-quality problem. The major culprits are scented and aromatherapy candles. Experts report that computers have been ruined by the soot. In some instances, there is so much soot generated from burning candles that it is causing severe damage to many homes and furnishings, and homeowners are mistakenly suing their builders and furnace and HVAC companies for improper installation of the systems.

Unfortunately, soot from candles can also be toxic. The soot particles can travel deep into the lungs, and those with asthma or lung or heart disease are particularly vulnerable. To make matters worse, many scented candles and aromatherapy candles are made with paraffin and synthetic fragrance oils. Paraffin is a petroleum product – a by-product of oil refining – and most fragrance oils used for candle making are petroleum-based synthetics. The soot from these materials can contain carcinogens, neurotoxins, and reproductive toxins. Testing and air chamber analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency has found a toxic soup of chemicals including benzene, lead, toluene, and carbon tetrachloride. Some metal wire wicks can contain lead.

Buy unscented candles made without petroleum and with wire-free wicks.


By Annie B. Bond, the best-selling and award-winning author of five healthy/green living books, including Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), Home EnlightenmentClean & Green (1990), and most recently True Food (National Geographic, 2010 and winner of Gourmand Awards Best Health and Nutrition Cookbook in the World). She has authored literally thousands of articles and was named “the foremost expert on green living” by Body & Soul magazine (2009).