Most cheap supermarket candles are made from paraffin wax. Paraffin wax consists of alkane hydrocarbons and melts between 47°C and 65°C (around 120° to 150° F). It is derived from light lubricating oil distillates. When burned, the fumes can contain a number of carcinogens including Acetaldehyde, Acrolein, Benzene, Formaldehyde, Polychlorodibenzo-p-dioxins, Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons and Toulene.
Candles made from bees-, soy-, or plant-wax are better for the environment and are now readily available.
Most cheap supermarket candles are made from paraffin wax which is a petroleum-based product. The extraction of fossil-fuels causes environmental destruction and burning these candles contributes to air pollution.
Wicks in older candles had lead cores and, while these have been replaced by zinc and tin and are now less harmful to humans, still cause environmental degradation.
80-90% of fragrance ingredients are "synthesized from petroleum and some of the commonly found harmful chemicals in fragranced products include acetone, phenol, toluene, benzyl acetate, and limonene" (from a 2009 study "Fragrance in the Workplace is the New Second-Hand Smoke", University of Maryland, US). Many of the chemicals commonly used in fragrance blends have been linked to hormone disruption, asthma, chronic lung disease, and allergic reactions; nevertheless, they are not required to be listed as ingredients because they're considered a proprietary secret.
Choose bees- or plant-wax candles. Ensure wicks are made of recycled cotton, hemp or recycled paper fibre. Choose "bare" candles, i.e. not in aluminium, plastic or glass containers.
Take partially-used candles to the ReUse Academy at the Whanganui Environment Base.
Clean and refill your own candle containers with bees-, soy- or plant-wax alternatives.
Clean decorative candle-holders can also be taken to the ReUse Academy and other charity/secondhand shops.
Clean aluminium tealight containers can be recycled at the Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre.
Please reuse and recycle rather than send to landfill.