Are Paraffin Wax Candles Toxic?

are paraffin wax candles toxic

Is it true?  Are paraffin wax candles toxic?  In a nutshell, no.  Paraffin wax candles are no more “toxic” than soy wax candles – and that is corroborated by scientific research.   As a quick aside, perhaps this is the moment to find a few synonyms for the word “toxic” : harmful, noxious, poisonous.

Misinformation about Paraffin Wax:  Malicious Campaign or Intellectual Laziness?

The internet abounds with assertions that paraffin wax candles are in some way “toxic”.  These nebulous assertions include the priceless “it is harmful to breathe the smoke from paraffin wax candles”. Well, surprise, surprise, it is also harmful to breathe the smoke from soy wax candles. It is harmful to breathe smoke from fires and smoke from cigarettes.   Don’t spill hot coffee on yourself – it burns.

What’s the takeaway?   Don’t breathe in smoke, it’s not good for your health.

But let’s get back to paraffin wax candles.  The plethora of candle making websites that confidently assert that soy wax candles are “healthier” than paraffin wax candles, does make one wonder what is going on.   Are candle making blog writers a waddle of quacking ducks, who repeat what they’ve heard without doing their own research?  Not unlikely.  If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you might be convinced that there is something more sinister at play.  Perhaps the Wax Illuminati have launched a concerted and strategic campaign of misinformation?

Michael Pollin’s excellent book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, comes to mind.  In it he discusses the intimate connection between maize farming in the US and their fast fast and processed food industry.  Maize is a bulky, low value crop which is expensive to transport.   Someone came up with the brilliant idea to invent a more concentrated, lucrative product which would be financially viable to transport.  This is how corn syrup was born.  In the US corn syrup is added to all fast and processed food, including bread.

Soy beans and soy bean oil are produced on a massive scale globally.  These crops are used as food additives (read the ingredients list for sliced bread) and animal feeds.  Was soy wax invented as a value-added product in order to maximise profits?  Were the supposed benefits of soy wax and soy wax candles actively marketed with no regard for scientific fact?

Well now, how about those scientific facts then.

Choice scientific citations which prove that soy wax candles are as “toxic” as paraffin wax candles

The truth is, inhalation of smoke in larger amounts will be harmful no matter the kind of wax. It can be difficult to decide what type of candle is right for you since most waxes are found to be safe in normal conditions. That being said, “normal” conditions may vary from person to person. As such, the safest option is to do your own research and to practice safe candle-use.

A few things to keep in mind to burn candles safely:

  • Avoid direct inhalation of the smoke
  • Only use candles in ventilated spaces
  • Always keep burning candles in view
  • Do not use water to put out candles
  • Extinguish candles before going to bed or leaving the area

– Cat Wang, biomedical science student at McGill University.  Read the whole article 

Are candles made from paraffin wax safe?

Validated scientific studies have shown that all major candle waxes exhibit the same basic burn behavior and produce virtually identical combustion byproducts, both in terms of composition and amount.

– European Candle Association

Environmental concerns

Paraffin wax is one of the many products produced from petroleum.  Soy wax is one of the many products produced from the soy plant.  If you are concerned about this major difference between paraffin wax and soy wax, the very best thing you could to for the environment would be to change your car for a bicycle.

For all of us who are deeply concerned about the environment, it is important to note that the single biggest pollutant is plastic.  Consider supporting a project or an organisation that works to reduce plastic in the environment.   Join a beach clean-up.  Read about or support South African engineer, Richard Hardiman, who invented an aquadrone for ocean clean-ups, the WasteShark. These admirable human beings, and many others besides, are actively making a difference.  You may be moved to join, support or promote their efforts.

South Africa needs to reduce plastic entering the environment by reducing illegal and informal dumping, effectively implementing and improving waste management infrastructure, and intensifying long-term awareness campaigns. Most importantly, however, immediate and effective mitigation is required.

quoted from the SA Journal of Science


Don’t believe everything you read on the internet – check any assertions to make sure that these assertions are in line with scientific findings.

More importantly, choose the wax that you enjoy and have fun bringing your creative vision to life.  Some chandlers prefer soy wax and others love paraffin wax.  Vive la différence!