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Candle Safety


Materials most easily ignited by candles are:

Mattesses and bedding


Curtains and Drapes

Interior Wall Coverings

Upholstered Furniture

Event Decorations



Newspapers and Writing Paper

Rugs and other Floor Coverings


Beware of Lead Wicks

A paraffin candle sometimes has lead in the wick's core, which you can spot by looking for a thin wire in the center of the cotton wick. Lead matter is emitted when the candle burns. This is distressing news in light of the fact that 100 percent of lead inhaled from candlewicks is absorbed into the bloodstream.

The Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that families exposed to candles with metallic wicks should have their blood-lead levels checked.

Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning. Chronic low-level exposure can produce permanent neuro-psychological defects and behavior disorders, including low IQ, short attention span, hyperactive behavior and motor difficulties. As for adults, early signs of poisoning include gastrointestinal problems, muscle pains and weakness, irritability, excessive thirst, headache, insomnia, depression and lethargy. People with asthma or lung or heart diseases are especially susceptible because even small amounts of lead particles can aggravate their condition.

Candles are enjoyable, calming and fragrant, but don't ever forget that when you burn them, you are dealing with fire.  Always take proper precautions to prevent your enjoyable experience from turning into a disaster.

The number of home fires started by candles has increased dramatically in the last ten years.  According to the National Fire Prevention Association the number of fires caused by candles in homes throughout the country increased from 5,460 in 1990 to 11,600 in 1997 - the most recent year for which data are available.  Ironically this increase occurred during a period in which home fires in general are on the decline.  U. S. consumers spent over $2.3 billion on candles during the year 2000.  Since the candle-making industry has grown (and continues to grow) at a rate of about 10 to 15% annually, opportunities for home fires will increase even further unless consumers become more aware of the potential for danger that candles pose if they are not used in accordance with established safety procedures.

Most of these candle-caused fires started when lit candles were left unattended, or because some form of combustible material was left too close to the candle, or because children were playing with the candles or something flammable near the candles.  Five percent of home candle fires started when the occupant fell asleep while the candle was burning.  Almost half of all candle fires start in the bedroom.

Last  modified: June 30, 2004


The Bureau of Fire Prevention and Department of Fire   offers the following advice for using candles safely:

  • Position candles well away from flammable objects and materials, and well away from any possible contact by pets or children.  Don't put lit candles in windows, where blinds or curtains can close over them.  

  • Keep candles and all open flames away from flammable liquids.

  • Place candles on heat-resistant surfaces which will not transmit heat to the furniture on which they are placed.  Ceramics work well for this purpose.  Candles should also be placed in heat-resistant bowls that will catch dripping wax, and secured in an appropriate holder so there's not the slightest possibility of the candle falling over, or being blown or knocked over.

  • Never leave a burning candle unattended.

  • Never light a candle in a situation in which you might fall asleep  before blowing it out.

  • When blowing out a candle, hold your index finger in front of the flame and blow at it.  Air will flow around your finger, extinguish the candle from both sides, and prevent hot wax from splattering.

  • Install a smoke detector in every room where candles are burned.

Don't get a sense of false security because you bought jar candles.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety commissioner has issued a number of recalls of candles and candle-related products.  The flames on some candles could shoot up seven inches or more and in some cases, candle holders or containers can overheat, shatter or catch on fire.  An estimated 3% of candle fires started when their holders, usually glass, broke.



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