EcoWaste Coalition Finds Toxic Candles on Sale in Chinatown, Cautions Consumers from Burning Candles with Leaded Wicks

Imported candles with lead-cored wicks long banned in US and other countries are being sold in Chinatown like ordinary candles, a toxics watchdog revealed today.

In test buys conducted few days before Undas when the consumption of candles is expected to peak, the EcoWaste Coalition discovered that leaded wick candles, which are illegal to make and sell in US since 2003, can be bought locally, particularly in Binondo, Manila.

Despite being banned in the US, as well as in Australia, Canada, Denmark and other jurisdictions, to protect children from health hazards, some candle makers still insert thin lead wire into the braided or woven wick to support or straighten the wick.

“We were really shocked to discover that some imported candles made of gel or paraffin wax had lead-cored wicks that produce health-damaging lead vapor and dust during burning,” Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Lead builds up in the body, and even exposure to tiny amounts can add to the level of lead in the blood. This is utterly dangerous, especially for unborn babies and growing children,” he said.

The burning of candles with lead wicks, whether used indoor or outdoor, will contribute to lead levels in the surroundings, and contribute as well in human exposure to lead, the group said.

Out of the 12 candles bought on October 26, 2012 for P45 – P150 from specialty shops in Benavidez, Masangkay and Ongpin Streets in Binondo, the group found lead in the wicks of seven samples in the range of 34,800 parts per million (ppm) to 62,900 ppm, or an average of 43,943 ppm lead in the candle wicks.

Six of the seven lead-tainted items were also found to contain other heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury above levels of concern.

A portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer was used to screen the candle samples for heavy metals on October 27, 2012.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the manufacture and sale of lead-cored wicks and candles with lead-cored wicks in 2003 after determining that these could release huge quantities of lead into the air during burning.

According to the CPSC, “some of the candles tested by CPSC staff emitted lead levels in excess of 3,000 micrograms per hour – about seven times the rate that cold lead to elevated levels of lead in a child.”

“Children may then inhale the vaporized lead, placing them at risk. Children may also be exposed to lead by mouthing objects on which lead has settled or by handling such objects and then mouthing their hands,”the CPSC reported.

The impact of children’s exposure to lead are often irreversible, and can bring about life-long health problems, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

According to a fact sheet prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition, lead poisoning in children results to brain and nervous system damage, lower IQ, developmental delays, decreased bone and muscle growth, poor muscle coordination, hearing, speech and language difficulties, and behavioral problems.

To guard against lead exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers 1) to refrain from buying and using candles with metallic core unless it is certified to be a non-lead material, and 2) to patronize candles from reputable candle makers that are of good quality, non-toxic and locally-made.

The EcoWaste Coalition likewise appealed to the government to unilaterally ban candles with wicks containing lead and to constantly monitor the market to ensure that only safe candles are sold to consumers.