21 October 2014

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 poisoning.

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 articles.

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 ascertained.”

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 with.




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