|Green Candles, Pt. 1: What Is the Most Natural Candle Wax?|
|Monday, 04 February 2013 00:00 | Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry|
We all know petro-plastic has toxic implications, which is precisely why I first reduce, and then recycle all of the plastic with which I come into contact. I drink all of my water from glass bottles. Heck, I even drive my car on vegetable oil instead of petroleum fuel. If I am willing to go this far to become a conscious petroleum consumer, then why would I still be burning petroleum-based candles right in my own living room at home?
Paraffin is a byproduct of the petroleum refining process. This dark-gray sludge is further treated with toxic chemicals to bleach, color and scent it. Then it is sent off to well-intentioned consumers wanting to light their homes "naturally.” And don't we all just love the cozy smell of vanilla candles? Well, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air-chamber analysis has revealed “these neurotoxins and carcinogenic compounds in significant quantity in a random group of over 30 candles tested: acetone, benzene, butane, ethylbenzene, styrene, phenol and lead,” to name a few. That vanilla pillar doesn't smell so good any more, does it?
The good news is, there are many alternative wax candles out there—including palm, soy and beeswax—that when burned will not release carcinogens into the air. Let me give you the lowdown on these non-petroleum waxes so you can make an educated decision for your electricity-free home lighting. Not all non-petroleum waxes are created equal:
Palm Oil Wax
The palm tree grows native in western Africa and mostly on small, family farms. It is currently more sustainable to source palm wax from western African locations; however with enough interest, I personally suspect that the same environmental catastrophe is likely to happen in Africa as it has in Southeast Asia. Palm wax is often bleached and deodorized before reaching a candle pourer, who may or may not use synthetic fragrances and dyes.
The production of beeswax does not harm the environment and happens locally almost anywhere in the United States. Although beekeeping is normally a careful and sustainable art, some vegans feel it is unnatural to interfere with bees' lives and choose to exclude bee products from their lifestyle. Beeswax candles are most often unscented (because beeswax smells so luscious as is!) and are rarely dyed.
These are the ethical, environmental and health impacts of the production and use of non-petroleum candle waxes. These criteria have become the basis of my consumer purchase decisions recently. But they aren't everything. Next week I will discuss the other factors that make one candle a cleaner burn on the consciousness.
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