The Joy of Soy!

by Jody Olson - Date: 2007-01-02 - Word Count: 776 Share This!

While most of us are conscious of the desire for a healthier lifestyle through organic foods, natural skin and body products, and even healthier air through smoking bans, not everyone is aware of the possible harmful effects of burning traditional paraffin wax candles in their homes. Luckily, new soy-based candles are allowing families to burn virtually soot-free candles and still enjoy the lovely light and fragrances that we love in our homes.

Do you know where paraffin wax comes from? Paraffin is actually a derivative of kerosene. It is a byproduct of oil production, a sort of "bottom of the barrel" scraping of the oil barrel. It's not surprising then, that one of the biggest complaints about traditional paraffin candles is the black residue or "soot" left on the containers, nearby walls, and fingers of those who are trying to clean their candles. Is it any great surprise then, that this same soot would be released into the air that you breathe while enjoying the smell of your candle? And that that same soot is going to coat any interior surfaces and then be possibly absorbed by skin contact? In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency did a study in 2001 titled "Candle Burning as a Potential Source of Indoor Air Pollution" ( where they purchased 100 sets of candles with metal-cored wicks. They then measured the lead levels in the wicks and found that while burning, several of the wicks emitted lead at a rate from 100-1400 micrograms/hour. Burning these candles can result in lead concentrations above EPA recommended thresholds.

Paraffin wax also contains 11 dangerous compounds which have been classified as dangerous by the EPA, some of which have been labeled as carcinogenic. One of these compounds is carbon tetrachloride. Chronic exposure to elevated levels of this can cause liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage. The EPA has classified carbon tetrachloride as a "Group B2" compound, a human carcinogen. As a result, the American Lung Association has issued warnings regarding the burning of paraffin candles as a common, unrecognized cause of poor indoor air quality. In contrast, soy-based wax candles are derived from all-natural soybeans that are grown all around the world, especially in the United States . It is made by hydrogenating the oil of the soybeans, which are a renewable resource limited only to how many soybeans are grown. Therefore, they support the American farmer and help to relieve some of our dependency on foreign oil. Because it is made of natural products, it is also biodegradable and not as harmful to our planet's health.

One of the best testimonials I've heard to date regarding the benefits of soy candles came from a friend who is a self-proclaimed "candle-holic". She told me that she burned paraffin candles every evening in her family room and was starting to experience some symptoms of asthma. She purchased a small room air-cleaning system from a popular electronic store to try to ease her symptoms. She noticed that every time she cleaned the filter after burning candles, the filter was covered in the same black soot that she often found on her white upholstery. When she converted to using only natural soy candles, she not only found that her filter remained soot-free, but that her asthma symptoms also abated. What a great story!

Anyone who has tried to get paraffin wax out of a tablecloth will appreciate the fact that soy wax is easily removed from linens with soap and water. Now, rather than using a hot iron and blotting the item with a cloth for hours in an effort to save a family heirloom, a simple dab with soapy water will restore the linens to be used again. Furthermore, this simple cleaning strategy allows us to wash soy candle containers and use them again.

An additional benefit of soy candles is the lower temperature at which they burn. While many people have been burned when candle wax spilled on their skin, I know of a soy candle maker who accidentally spilled an entire shelf of liquefied soy wax candles on his leg. While his wife looked on in horror, he calmly wiped his leg with a nearby towel and didn't have any redness or blistering. Since soy candles are burning at a lower temperature, it's not a stretch to realize that they will therefore last longer (up to 10 hours per ounce) and continue to throw their room-warming fragrance for many hours after a traditional candle has burned out.

So, while many people start buy their first soy candles as a "healthier" alternative to the traditional paraffin candle, most continue to purchase them for so many more reasons! Oh the JOY of SOY!

Related Tags: scented candles, soy, candles, soy candles, natural candles, hand-poured soy candles

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