By: Nicole Petcka and Greg Pillar
The popularity of scented candles is well known as candle sales surpass $2 billion annually. Recent studies have reported that the combustion of candle wax, specifically those made from paraffin, may emit harmful chemicals such as benzene and toluene. Other potentially harmful components such as acrolein are used as solidifying agents, plasticizers, fragrances, solvents, and dyes. This study investigated the presence of benzene in candle wax as well as the vapor from candles, incense, and mosquito coils. Samples were tested in a glass chamber using the OSHA ORG-12 method and gas chromatography mass spectroscopy. Benzene was not found in the candle wax of paraffin and non-paraffin candles. Vapor collected from the combustion of candles made with beeswax, soy wax, and paraffin wax did not contain concerning levels of benzene. Vapor samples collected from incense and mosquito coils contained benzene with concentrations ranging from 0.1 ppm to 0.5 ppm within the 50-minute collection period. While these concentrations are below the recommended exposure limits, benzene is a suspected human carcinogen and exposure should be reduced to the lowest feasible amount.