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"Mystery Soot Stains" caused by Candles

Posted by Cathy on January 25th, 2000 11:07 PM

1 of 2 people found this post helpful

If you have "Mystery Soot Stains" in your home that you have not been able to track down the source...the cause may be your favorite Candles.

Candles add to the warmth & atmosphere of a home, but some candles can contribute to an indoor air pollution problem by emitting particulate matter (candle soot) into the air. Candle pollution not only discolors the walls, ceilings and contents of a home it can also contaminate the ventilation system's ductwork. This is especially true of ducts constructed from fiberglass "duct-board". It appears that scented and/or aromatic candles are the worst offenders.

If the light colored fabrics in your home begin to look rather dingy or gray, if plastic items in the house begin to accumulate a dark film, if your electronic equipment has discolorations especially around vents (ie. computers, disc drives, etc...), if the television or computer monitor screen is covered with a thin dark residue that wipes off with a clean cloth (this film will appear darker than regular household dust on a clean cloth) you could have an IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) problem resulting from candle soot.

If you suspect a problem:

1) Stop burning candles immediately!

2) Check and/or change the filter in your heating/cooling system, save the filter if it is more discolored than you would normally see.

3) Continue to change the filter more frequently than usual, you should observe a gradual lightening of each subsequent filter.

4) Depending on the extent of property damage you may want to contact your homeowners insurance and/or the candle's manufacturer.

5) You may also want to seek the advice of an Indoor Air Quality or Building Science Specialist.

6) If evidence is compelling towards candles causing the problems, you may want to contact CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

Literally hundreds of homeowners around the country have been reporting substantial property damage to their home's interiors & contents from candle soot deposits on everything from walls, ceilings and carpets to plastics, toys and computers and other electronics.

What to do if you have property damage in your home from candle burning.

Here are a few of the things that are important to do asap if damage is of substantial monetary value:

1. To the best of your ability try to recall a time frame when the candles that are suspected to have caused the damage were burned (i.e. Oct.98 to Mar. 99), how often were they burned, how many were burned, how many at a time, where they were located when they were burning. You may also want to save & date all you air filters if you have a forced air H/VAC system. See if you have receipts for any of your candle purchases. Collect all relevant information into a file so facts will be consistent on # 2 - # 4. Make note of who you speak to, when & what they had to say.

2. Contact your Homeowners Insurance Company &/or Agent

3. Contact the candle retailer & manufacturer & get your report of damage resulting from product use "on the record"

4. file an incident report with the CPSC (there's a link to this on the Candle & Indoor Air Quality page.

I will attempt to be of as much assistance as possible & if you can let me know your nearest metropolitan area I will try to refer you to a professional who is familiar with soot deposition from candles who could possibly be of help, especially with regard to filing a claim on your homeowners policy. We are finding that the homeowners who are well informed & have consulted with professionals have been fairing much better in dealing with their insurance & claim settlement outcome.

Some recent developments:

• A front page Wall Street Journal Article on 3/31/99 reported on this very issue of candle soot damage to homes. (if you would like for me to e-mail a copy of the article's text let me know & I'll be happy to do so.).

• an ASTM Sub-Committee was formed in cooperation with the CPSC to examine candle performance with sooting being one of the many issues on the table.

• a presentation made at the largest IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) Conference last year dealing solely with the issue of soot deposition & health hazards from candle emissions.

• there was a technical meeting this year at the NCA meeting to discuss candle emissions.

• over 25 candle makers, manufacturers, suppliers & retailers have had Proposition 65 notices filed against them for toxic or hazardous ingredients without warning or disclosure (contact me for a listing).

• a class action is awaiting certification against a worldwide retailer of candles which contained lead. There's also a possibility of organizing a class action against Yankee Candle Company for consumers who sustained damage resulting from Yankee brand candles.

• a number of civil cases have been initiated across the country by homeowners in an attempt to recover the expense of damage they incurred due to candle use.

links to stories that appeared in last month's "CHOICE" - the publication of the Australian Consumer's Association:
Choice - Candle danger

Candle danger - Lead Wicks & How to Spot Them

• - Are scented candles damaging your home?

•From Dr. Koop's Web site: Long-Burning Candles Can Emit Unsafe Levels of Lead

• From Dr. Andrew Weil's Web page: Ask Dr. Weil - Q&A: Downside to Aromatherapy?,2283,1608,00.html

• ENN Radio -
Is burning a candle dangerous?, ENN Multimedia -- 10/21/1999

• A NPR interview that my husband & I did last month
Living on Earth: October 29,1999

Living On Earth: A Burning Issue

• WDIV: HazardsofCandles

• For a general overview of the hazards to property & health:
Candles and Indoor Air Quality

• Links to Prior Articles available on the Candles & IAQ Site

• Homeowners Soot Damage Discussion

This is a resource for homeowners & professionals who have encountered the problem of candle soot damage...what to do, who to contact, etc...many many links & contacts available here.

•Denver TV Market: 9NEWS Consumer Corner - We the People


• Channel 2000 - Burning Danger

Toxic dangers in candles?

In a KIRO 7 Consumer Investigation, scientists warn that a holiday tradition may carry toxic risks.

• Nriagu Study - Some Candles Emit Dangerous Levels Of Lead

• Scientists warn candles may be dangerous

• Good Housekeeping: Good Advice From Good Housekeeping

Hopefully this information will save a few homeowners the expense of unneccessary repairs & replacements of H/VAC equipment which has been a frequent solution suggested - then after the work is done soot deposits continue. They continue because the homeowner is in the dark about soot caused by candles & so they are still burning candles. This damage can be quite extensive & the sad part is that it's very preventable, if only consumers had known.

Regards -
Cathy Flanders
IAQ List Manager & Moderator
Fax # 781-394-8288
Personal E-Mail:
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