Are candles bad for you? They may be enchanting, but they could pose a big risk if you aren’t careful.
Fire may be one of the most mesmerizing occurrences in nature. It can be destructive, but it also offers warmth and light. We can use fire as a tool for cooking and for shaping metal and glass. Candles bring this element into our homes in a small, controlled package.
Candles add ambiance to our dinners. We light them to help us create a relaxing atmosphere, and we use them in ceremonies from weddings to holidays. With so many beautiful and helpful uses, how are candles bad for you and your family? It all starts with how you use them.
Are Candles Bad for You?
What That Little Flame Can Mean.
As beautiful as they are, however, candles may pose a significant risk if they aren’t used properly. A candle is, by nature, an open flame, at least to some extent. Even small candles like tea lights or candles in glass jars are an open flame that could cause problems.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), candles are responsible for an average of 24 home fires each day. Over a five-year period, “candles caused 2% of reported home fires, 3% of home fire deaths, 7% of home fire injuries, and 4% of the direct property damage in home fires.”
Here are five more facts about candles and fire hazards to be aware of.
1. 11% of candle fires happened after falling asleep.
According to the American Red Cross, just under 1,000 home fires every year happen when people fall asleep with a lit candle. The NFPA adds that these fires also account for “21% of the associated deaths.” Those are some pretty frightening numbers, and yet, it’s easy to get distracted and forget that you have a candle or two burning. What can you do? Set an alarm any time you light a candle.
2. 59% of home candle fires happen because flammable items are too close to the candle.
Curtains, papers, books, fabric, dry plant leaves, furniture, decorations, and bedding are just some of the items that can quickly catch fire from a candle or stray spark. Both the American Red Cross and the NFPA recommend keeping candles at least 12 inches away from any flammable materials. Ready.gov points out that a small flame can turn into a major fire in 30 seconds, and researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute found that an entire room can become engulfed in flames in just over two minutes.
3. 37% of home candle fires start in the bedroom.
While candles can set the mood with some nice ambiance, there’s nothing good that comes from something catching on fire. In fact, statistics from the NFPA note that “these fires caused 36% of the associated deaths and 51% of the associated injuries.”
4. 11% of home candle fires happen in December, but that doesn’t get you off the hook the rest of the year.
Holiday decorations are beautiful. They are also very flammable. With extra decorative candles, it’s important to exercise caution and care. This is true any time of year, and though most people have more candles lit around the holidays, that's no reason to forget fire safety rules throughout the year.
5. 16% of home candle fires begin when candles are left unattended.
If you aren’t in the same room as the candle, you’ll never know that the cat knocked it over or that the wind blew the curtain too close. And as noted above, it only takes a few minutes for an entire home to become an inferno. If you have to leave the room, blow the candle out.
Are Candles Bad for You?
Easy Tips to Stay Safe
Despite the cautionary numbers, candles can be a lovely decorative element in our homes. A few simple rules, courtesy of the National Candle Association, will help you enjoy the light without running a big risk of fire.
- Always use a sturdy, heat-resistant candle holder.
- Place the candle holder on a stable, heat-resistant surface.
- Trim the wick to ¼ of an inch before lighting it.
- Always extinguish candles before you leave a room or go to sleep.
- Place candles away from drafts and vents to prevent flare-ups.
- Always extinguish a candle before it burns all the way down.
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