Undas Safety Warning: Watchdog Cautions Consumers against Toxic Candles, Offers Precautionary Tips

Imported Chinese candles with metal wicks are still sold
in Binondo, Manila despite being banned in many countries due to the risk of lead

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog campaigning to
eliminate preventable sources of childhood lead exposure, made the revelation as
the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action is observed around
the world.
The group had earlier bought 15 pairs of red, white and
yellow paraffin wax candles with metal wicks for P150 per pair.  The candles, placed on a gourd and pineapple
shaped clear glass containers, are sold at shops selling Chinese prayer
The candles were subsequently sent to SGS, a global
testing company, for laboratory analysis that detected a whopping 207,350 parts
per million (ppm) of lead in the composite wicks of approximately 20 candles.
“Most candles in the market, especially those made by
local manufacturers, use cotton wicks and pose no risk of lead pollution. However,
consumers should be wary of imported candles with lead core wicks as these
products could discharge harmful lead fumes during burning,” said Thony Dizon,
Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
Such candles would be illegal to sell in Australia which
banned candles with  leaded wicks in
1999, Finland in 2001, Denmark in 2002 and USA in 2003, observed the group.
The EcoWaste Coalition therefore urged the Department of Health,
particularly  the Food and Drugs
Administration which has jurisdiction over candle  products, to ban the manufacture,
importation, distribution and sale of 
candles with lead-containing wicks.

A health warning from the US Consumer Product Safety
Commission warned that “children may 
inhale the vaporized lead, placing them at risk.”
The agency also said that “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.”
“While the ingestion or inhalation of lead-containing
paint chips and dust is the common source of exposure for children, lead builds
up in the body and even exposure to small doses of  lead can add to blood lead levels in
children,” Dizon said, as he emphasized that “no safe blood lead level has been
Health experts have associated lead exposure in children
and unborn babies to brain damage, learning disabilities and IQ deficits,
delayed growth and development, and behavioral problems.
Experts have also warned that lead-exposed pregnant women
can transfer lead to the fetus via the placenta and inflict serious harm to the
developing fetal brain and central nervous system.
To minimize risk when using candles, especially during
the Undas holidays, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded the public to observe the following
safety tips:
1.  Read and follow
the manufacturer’s safety instructions on candle use.
2.  Do not light
candles with lead metal in the wicks; choose candles with cotton and other
non-metal wicks.
3.  Prune
candlewicks to ¼ inch before lighting the candle as long wicks can cause
irregular burning and dripping.
4.  Use sturdy
candle holders that will not turn over, catch fire or shatter when they get too
hot, and big enough to capture the wax drips; be sure to place the candle
holder on a stable, heat resistant and uncluttered surface.

5.  Burn candles in
a well-aerated space to lessen indoor air pollution, but keep the candles away
from air currents to avoid fast burning and flare-ups.

6.  Always keep a
burning candle in sight,  do not leave
lighted candles unattended, snuff them out before you leave the room or go to sleep,
and make sure they are completely out.
7.  Do not drop
matchsticks and other objects into the wax pool.

8.  Keep burning
candles away from flammable materials such as paper, books, beddings, curtains,
decorations, fabrics, furniture, plastics, etc.

9.  If a candle
must burn continuously, ensure that it is placed on a durable candle holder and
put it on a ceramic, metal or plastic container filled with water.
10. Keep burning candles out of reach of children and
safe from pets; educate the kids that candles are not things to eat or play