How Phthalates in Candles Can Affect Your Well-being

phthalate free candles

Lighting a scented candle might introduce more than a pleasant aroma; it could bring phthalates into your air. These additives are often found in fragrance oils but have raised health concerns. This article discusses the use of phthalates in candles, their potential risks, and how to avoid them, offering insights for those seeking healthier home environments.

Key Takeaways for Candle Phthalates

  • Phthalates, used in candles for enhancing fragrances, are endocrine disruptors that could lead to health issues, including hormonal imbalances and respiratory problems.

  • Despite some phthalates like DEP being considered safe by IFRA, the FDA and other regulatory bodies have varying standards regarding their use, with certain agencies imposing restrictions on their concentration in products.

  • Consumer health can be protected by choosing phthalate-free candles, many of which use natural ingredients like soy wax and essential oils, and explicitly state their phthalate-free status to ensure indoor air quality and reduce the emission of harmful chemicals.

Understanding Phthalates in Candles

phthalates in candles

Phthalates, a category of chemicals used to increase the flexibility and durability of plastics, are frequently found in various fragrances and personal care items, including candle scents. Their role in enhancing the overall fragrance experience might be underappreciated. Indeed, when incorporated in fragrance oils used in candles, they disperse into the air as the candle burns. However, not all candles harbor these chemicals. Various candles on the market use phthalate-free fragrance oils infused with natural essential oils, offering a safer alternative.

While phthalates contribute to the aromatic strength of candles, they also raise concerns about potential health problems. As we seek a relaxing ambiance, we must weigh the potential risks tied to the very components that make our candles so alluring. It’s time to unmask the truth about phthalates and discover the importance of choosing phthalate-free candles.

Types of Phthalates

Among the various types of phthalates, Diethyl phthalate (DEP) stands out for its frequent utilization in:

  • cosmetics

  • fragrance oils

  • plastics

  • toothbrushes

  • automobile parts

  • tools

  • toys

  • candles

DEP serves as a solvent, a denaturant for alcohol, and a plasticizer in a range of products, including some that may contain toxic chemicals and other chemical compounds.

Despite its widespread use, DEP is not without potential health risks. It can lead to male reproductive toxicity, particularly impacting sperm, although there is no evidence suggesting that it causes cancer in humans or animals.

However, it remains important to understand the potential risks tied to the products we often use, particularly those that can influence the air we inhale.

Phthalates in Fragrance Oils

Laboratory equipment for fragrance oil testing

DEP plays a significant role as a solvent in many fragrance oils. This chemical helps blend materials that typically do not mix at room temperature, enhancing the consistency and performance of the fragrance in scented products like candles. As phthalates are a prevalent component in fragrance oils used in candles, they disperse into the air as the candles burn, enhancing the fragrance experience.

However, bear in mind that not all phthalates are detrimental, with DEP being a prime example. Despite its common presence in fragrance oils, there are no studies showing its harmful effects when used in the context of making candles. Yet, the potential health risks associated with other types of phthalates cannot be ignored.

The Health Risks Associated with Phthalates

Health risk concept illustration

Phthalates are recognized as endocrine disruptors, capable of disrupting the normal operation of the endocrine system. The endocrine system plays a pivotal role in our body, controlling:

  • mood

  • growth and development

  • organ function

  • metabolism

  • reproduction

Any interference with this system could result in a multitude of health issues, irrespective of the four scents used in candles.

Phthalates also hold the potential to worsen respiratory issues. They disperse into the air as the candles burn, thereby enhancing the overall fragrance experience and increasing the aromatic strength.

Endocrine Disruption

Phthalates, acting as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, can lead to adverse effects on the reproductive, neurological, and developmental systems of humans. The endocrine system, responsible for the release of hormones into the bloodstream, plays a significant role in controlling:

  • mood

  • growth and development

  • organ function

  • metabolism

  • reproduction

Interference by phthalates can give rise to a variety of health problems.

While all phthalates have the potential to disrupt the endocrine system, certain types have been recognized as particularly harmful due to their stronger disruptive effects on the reproductive, neurological, and developmental systems. This data highlights the need for comprehensive understanding of the components in our everyday products, including our cherished candles.

Respiratory Issues

Exposure to certain phthalates, particularly DEHP, can exacerbate pulmonary function and airway inflammation in children with asthma. This exposure may also increase the risk of developing asthma in both children and adults. As candles burn, phthalates present in the fragrance oils disperse into the air, potentially causing or exacerbating these respiratory issues.

While enjoying the calming flicker and soothing scent of a candle, one might not consider the potential respiratory risks. This disclosure emphasizes the need for knowledge of the ingredients in our candles and their potential effects on our health, especially for individuals with existing respiratory conditions.

Regulations and Industry Standards

Regulatory standards document

With potential health risks linked to phthalates, what regulations and industry standards are in place to ensure safety? Bodies like the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) play a significant role, implementing standards that encompass voluntary prohibitions and limitations on specific fragrance chemicals. However, the IFRA has determined that DEP, when used in fragrances, poses no risk to human health or the environment.

On the other hand, the FDA does not have explicit regulations regarding the use of phthalates in fragrance oils and candles, but it does require that fragrance ingredients in cosmetics adhere to safety requirements. It’s worth mentioning that industry standards have been shifting towards the employment of phthalate-free fragrance oils in candles.

International Fragrance Association (IFRA)

The IFRA serves as a regulating body of the fragrance industry. Its responsibilities include setting safety guidelines and offering product information. It has deemed DEP safe for use in fragrance oils, likening phthalates to berries and mushrooms in that not all are harmful.

One might wonder why the IFRA would involve itself in candle safety. A significant motivator is its financial interest in safeguarding the fragrance industry from potentially disruptive or alarming information. Through its Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM), it supplies data for the development of standards and the evaluation of ingredients based on sound scientific principles.

FDA and Other Regulatory Bodies

Despite the potential risks associated with phthalates, the FDA has not found evidence indicating that their use in cosmetics poses a safety risk, and as such, there are currently no restrictions or warnings issued by them regarding the use of DEP.

However, other regulatory bodies, such as the European Chemicals Agency, enforce maximum concentration limits for 14 phthalates in various products, with products exceeding this limit potentially being withdrawn from the market.

In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency regulates phthalates in consumer products, acknowledging the potential high exposure risks associated with many of these products.

Choosing Phthalate-Free Candles

Woman choosing phthalate-free candles

While the journey through the world of phthalates can seem daunting, there’s a beacon of hope in the form of phthalate-free candles. Choosing phthalate-free candles can mitigate health risks and minimize the presence of toxins in the air.

Brands like P.F. Candle Co., Brooklyn Candle Studio, and Mrs. Meyer’s Soy Tin Aromatherapy Candles are recognized for manufacturing candles that are free from phthalates.

Identifying Phthalate-Free Candles

Identifying phthalate-free candles may seem tricky at first, given the numerous labels and ingredients to look out for. However, paying attention to labels can guide your choices. Look for labels such as:

  • ‘non-toxic’

  • ‘paraben-free’

  • ‘phthalate-free’

  • ‘lyral-free’

  • ‘lilal-free’

Phthalate-free candles typically contain ingredients such as soy wax, lead-free cotton wicks, and essential oils, along with a combination of natural and synthetic fragrance ingredients that are phthalate-free.

The most reliable method to guarantee you’re choosing a phthalate-free candle is to opt for products that clearly state their phthalate-free status on their packaging, branding, or website. This way, you’ll be sure to enjoy your candles without the worry of potential health risks.

Benefits of Phthalate-Free Candles

Switching to phthalate-free candles offers numerous benefits, including:

  • A reduction in health risks, such as cancer and fertility problems

  • A cleaner and healthier indoor environment

  • Improved indoor air quality by reducing the emission of harmful chemicals and particles into the air.

Moreover, phthalate-free candles, particularly those crafted from soy wax, have several benefits:

  • They generate less soot and smoke compared to candles manufactured from paraffin wax.

  • This makes them a healthier option.

  • They also provide a cleaner candle-burning experience, leading to more enjoyment and less stress.


We’ve explained the risks of phthalates, their presence in candles, and the potential health risks they pose. We’ve learned about the regulations and standards that govern their use and discussed phthalate-free candles, their benefits, and how to identify them. As we continue to enjoy the comfort, ambience, and warmth that candles bring into our lives, let’s make informed choices, prioritizing not only the fragrance of our candles but also the health of our homes and ourselves.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are candles phthalate free?

Most mass-market candles can contain phthalates, which are harmful chemicals found in many fragrance blends. When shopping for candles, look for manufacturers to state their fragrance ingredients are phthalate-free.

Does wax have phthalates?

Wax by itself does not contain phthalates. However, since most mass-market fragrance oils used in candle making phthalates, candle wax will likely contain phthalates unless the product description states otherwise.

How do you identify phthalates in fragrance?

To identify phthalates in fragrance, look for acronyms like DEP, DMP, DBP, Diisononyl phthalate, DNOP, and BBP, which refer to their chemical structure. This will help you recognize if they are present in the product.

What are phthalates and why are they used in candles?

Phthalates are chemicals used to enhance the flexibility and durability of plastics, and are commonly found in candle fragrances to improve the scent experience. These chemicals belong to a group used to increase the flexibility and durability of plastics.