Charlie and The Candle Factory

realscents

The other day, a business associate (Charlie) happened to be in our neck of the woods (which is definitely a neck of the woods!).  Naturally, I invited him to stop by the candle factory.  “Well, I have some bad news…” he replied.  “My wife and I actually have a ‘fragrance-free household.’ We are so sensitive to scents that we only receive magazines that offer a fragrance-free version, we only use certain fragrance-free skincare products, and so on.  Scented products give us migraines (or worse) and if we go into a store that sells Brand X candles, we instantly have to leave.”

Me too, Charlie! Me too!  The claims that are so often repeated by other brands (‘naturally scented’ or ‘pure aromatherapy’) end up leaving sensitive people wary of ALL scents, and understandably so.

So rather than talk about it, I said “Charlie, we’re different. But all I’m asking is that you come to the factory. If you can’t come in the door or if at any point find that you’re experiencing any irritation/sensitization, the tour will be over.”

Charlie tentatively got out of his car. We came through the entrance and he trailed behind, slowly waiting for the assault on his senses that occurs while flipping through magazines in the waiting room at the dentist’s office, or walking down the cleaning products aisle at the grocery store.  After a minute or two, I asked him how he was doing. “Fine?” he answered incredulously.  “I can smell a fragrant aroma, but it’s not like I expected…”

I could tell he was having a hard time processing the fact that he was surrounded by thousands of candles, drums of essential oils and indeed, a present and very real aroma; yet he couldn’t identify any of the usual negative effects.  Headache? No. Watery eyes? No.  Respiratory irritation? No.  And then, a smile of enlightenment appeared.  These candles are unlike any others he’d experienced.  And then he started having fun!  Charlie eagerly smelled each of our 30+ candle aromas and happily exclaimed things like “These are so clean!” and “It really smells like the plant!”.

For the next hour, we had the pleasure of explaining the differences between synthetic fragrances and unadulterated and completely intact pure botanical essences.  I showed him our small essential oil distilling apparatus (for fun, not for actually meeting our supply needs!). I showed him a 55-gallon drum of Lavender essential oil and explained the premium we pay for our ingredients, as opposed to synthetic fragrances.blankcandles2

We talked about “unscented” conventional products that actually contain synthetic fragrances to mask other chemical scents. We talked about “trade secrets” and the lack of labeling when it comes to mainstream personal care and cleaning products. We discussed intentionally vague words like “parfum” or “fragrance” that can mean any combination of petrochemical and phthalate-laden toxic ingredients.

We talked about health. We talked about the need for labeling requirements. We talked about how revolutionary it is to create truly authentic products in a world where chemicals are the norm. So, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks to the plant world; thanks to plant-based purity and thanks those who stick to their guns to create products with integrity.  There are some real heroes out there (Dr. Bronner’s, Urban Moonshine, Badger, Pangea, Weleda, Mountain Rose Herbs and more!)

And to all those who are chemically-sensitive, be proud of your bodies’ recognition of poison.  Just because the majority of the population is slowly becoming chemically desensitized doesn’t mean that the products on store shelves are safe.

To continue reading about this topic:

Dr. Aviva Romm recently wrote a great article about body burden and ways to reduce our exposure to toxins. (“Body burden refers to the total amount of toxic chemicals in your body at a given time, or the amount of a single chemical, for example, arsenic, lead, mercury, or PCB, to name just a few.”)  http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-7689/5-tips-to-reduce-your-exposure-to-toxins-and-lose-a-few-pounds-in-the-process.html

http://www.safecosmetics.org/downloads/NotTooPretty_report.pdf

February 2013 report from Women’s Voices for the Earth about how fragrance allergens harm public health: http://www.womensvoices.org/science/reports/secret-scents/

We’ve also written about our dedication to essential oils on our website:

http://www.wayoutwax.com/approach/why_essential_oils.html

http://www.wayoutwax.com/approach/aromatherapy.html

Identifying a “Clean” Candle: Part I-Wicks

The candle industry is mostly unregulated with regards to claims of things being “clean,” “organic,” and “natural,” which makes life difficult as a consumer to decipher what may be a questionable claim of purity from an honest one.

Metal in candle wicks, poor quality waxes and synthetic ingredients may all contribute to indoor air quality concerns and increase soot production which can be deposited on walls and ceilings and affect the value of your home – not to mention, the potential affects on your respiratory system.  People with asthma,  COPD concerns and chemical sensitivities may be particularly affected by burning poor quality candles.

The best way to ensure that you are actually buying a clean and healthy candle is to educate yourself.  We want to help you become an informed, savvy, consumer so we put together this series of blog posts to help you understand what to look for and what questions to ask a candle maker when shopping for a high quality, clean burning candle.

At its most basic, a candle consists of wax and a wick.  Other ingredients are sometimes added to the basic candle recipe for aesthetics (such as dyes), aroma (essential oils and/or fragrance oils), and enhancement (chemicals that intensify fragrance and/or increase the burn time of the candle or make it burn brighter).  We’ll touch on each of these elements through this blog series and discuss how the type and quality of each ingredient can factor into how “clean” the final product is.

It is now illegal for candles produced in the United States to put lead in candle wicks due to the toxicity when burning, but it used to be a common practice.  The reason to put metal in wicks is to help the wick stay upright and centered as the candle burns and prevent it from going limp and create burning challenges.  In a manufacturing environment, it is time consuming to manually manipulate every wick, so having lead in the wicks made it a more efficient process.  Cost concerns overrode health concerns.

Consider this for a moment… there are thousands, maybe millions, of candles being imported into the United States everyday from places that do not have regulations about lead in candle wicks.  Is it possible that all of the candles are all being checked for lead before making it onto store shelves?  Our best advice for you is know where your candles come from!

Some candle manufacturers may use other metals such as zinc and tin in wicks, which is legal to do, but this is largely untested and their safety is unknown.  There is also a possibility that the zinc and tin used may contain traces of lead impurities.  An easy way to test for lead in a candle wick is to take an ordinary piece of white paper and rub it on the tip of an unburned wick.  If the wick leaves a gray, pencil-like mark, there is lead in it, if not, it’s lead-free.  Here at Way Out Wax, we don’t mess around with metals in our wicks.  We choose to only use unbleached cotton or hemp wicks with a paper core in our candles.  Visit this link to read the results of a 2001 EPA study on candles as potential sources of indoor air pollution.

This post is part 1 of a series on identifying a clean candle.  Click here to read part 2 and here to read part 3 and as always, thanks for reading!