What Makes Burning Scented Candles So Harmful For My Pets?

By Dr. Jeannie Thomason


According to a recent study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 40 percent of candles on the market contain lead wires inside their wicks. Most often, the candles with lead wicks are scented candles. Fragrance oils soften the wax, so the manufacturers use lead to make the wicks firmer.




A candle with a lead-core wick releases five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children and exceeds EPA pollution standards for outdoor air, says the CPSC. Exposure to high amounts of lead has been linked to hormone disruption, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and numerous health problems.

Be sure to look for a “lead free” label, or perform the “No-Lead Test” below. You can also check the CPSC’s Web site, which provides a list of candle manufacturers that have signed the “no-lead wick pledge.”

You’ll also want to look out for candles made of paraffin— a petroleum by product—which release carcinogenic soot when burned. The soot can also cause respiratory problems and will aggravate the conditions of those who already have asthma, lung, or heart problems.

Burning a candle made of paraffin, even if the wick is lead free, is similar to preparing a healthy drink of fresh squeezed juice and adding a shot of gasoline,” says Eric Johnson of Candleworks, an Iowa City, Iowa based company that specializes in nontoxic aromatherapy candles.

Beeswax can cost as much as six times the price of paraffin, so most candle manufacturers only use a blend paraffin and beeswax to cut costs.

  • Paraffin is the major ingredient in most conventional candles and is a sludge waste product from the petroleum industry. It releases carcinogenic chemicals when burned. The soot/fumes are similar to that released from a diesel engine and can be as dangerous as second-hand cigarette smoke. This can contribute to serious respiratory issues like asthma.
  • Scented candles may have lead or lead cores in the wick, which releases dangerous amounts of lead into your home through the candle soot. Candle wicks are supposed to be made from pure paper or cotton, but a University of Michigan study in the late 1999 found that 30% of candles in the USA still released lead into the air, in amounts higher than is considered safe by the EPA (and personally, I’m not sure that I would consider there to be a “safe” level). Legislation was passed in the USA to ban lead in wicks in 2003, but it is still present in some candles which make their way onto store shelves, particularly those that are imported (made in China or Taiwan, for example). For my fellow Canadians, there has not yet been a Canadian ban on lead in candle wicks.
  • Two particularly toxic chemicals, benzene and toluene, are found in the sooty residue from burning candles. Benzene is cancer-causing and toluene affects the central nervous system.
  • Fragrance or artificial scents and even most colors may be irritants and/or trigger allergic reactions. About FRAGRANCE: The word “fragrance” or “parfum” on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.
  • Essential oils – Remember, unless home made with pure, therapeutic grade essential oils,  the “essential oils” used in commercially available candles are only perfume grade at best and do not have any true medicinal qualities.
  • Other toxic chemicals that may be present in the paraffin mixture and released through burning include: Acetone, Trichlorofluoromethane, Carbon Disulfide, 2-Butanone, Trichloroethane, Trichloroethene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Tetrachloroethene, Chlorobenzene, Ethylbenzene, Styrene, Xylene, Phenol, Cresol, Cyclopentene. Some of the toxins are found in other products such as paint, laquer and varnish removers– that’s potent and powerful stuff!

Need I say more?

Why Not Diffuse Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils Instead?

Diffusion of essential oils into the air of an enclosed space (such as a house, kennel, stable or aviary) is popularly called aromatherapy. This is because the highly aromatic, sweet-smelling molecules of the essential oils are literally breathed into the body, at which point they trigger numerous immune boosting, relaxation or stimulation responses depending upon the specific oils being inhaled.

Inhalation of essential oils causes the natural chemical constituents to enter the bloodstream via the lungs, (The lungs govern the immune system) pass the blood/brain barrier and they are also metabolized in the liver.

Moreover, when oils are diffused in a home,purify the air  by removing toxins, metallic particles and other harmful microscopic debris. They also increase the atmospheric oxygen of the air, and boost levels of beneficial ozone and negative ions which dramatically inhibit the growth and reproduction of airborne pathogens. Further, as the odorous molecules drift to the various surfaces of each room (ie., ceilings, floors, walls, tiling etc.), they rapidly kill virtually all pathogenic bacteria, rifles, molds and fungi they come into contact with. And lastly, they completely destroy odors from mold, cigarettes, and more.

The side benefits of diffusing therapeutic grade essential oils (Other than filling your home with wonderful fragrance) are:

  • Increased cell oxygen.
  • Increased secretions of endorphins.
  • Increased secretions of antibodies.
  • Increased production of ATP (energy fuel used by cells).
  • Increased secretions of seratonin.
  • Increased secretions of hormones.
  • Increased circulation and supports immune function.
  • Increased conversion of amino acids and proteins.
  • Helps in dealing with emotional trauma.
  • Raises the body’s electrical or vibrational frequencies



Read more about diffusing essential oils (aromatherapy) for your pets HERE

Dr. Jeannie has been using the same essential oils for close to 20 years and they are the ONLY ones she will endorse as she knows their quality is guaranteed from seed to seal and has experienced their efficiency and benefits personally and with her own animals.

Find out which essential oils she uses HERE

More Resources:

Podcast – Fake Fragrances Toxic

Is Perfume Toxic?

Study by Professor Alastair Lewis of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science 

Expert Panel Confirms Fragrance Ingredient Can Cause Cancer


The Information presented above is NOT intended to diagnose, treat or perscribe. This information is educational and offers alternative options and natural remedies to try out.  Results will vary; each animal is unique just as people are. You can use these natural remedies in conjunction with veterinary treatment however, the goal of providing this information is to give you ideas of natural health solutions that may help your pet to thrive.

Copyright 2016 This article is the sole property of Dr. Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason and The Whole (Wholistic) Dog. It cannot be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the expressed written consent of the author.

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