Friday, September 13, 2019

every ad tells a story

Recently this ad appeared in a local paper. I have cropped it and blacked out the name of the shop and the brand of candles it is advertising. The shop in question is a general gift shop, and the candle company, according to its website, uses soy wax “infused” with beeswax.

This ad gets one thing and one thing only right: Every gift has a story.

Soy wax is a manufactured wax. It was created in the 1990s in laboratories in Iowa and Indiana. Today it is manufactured by companies using proprietary formulas, the basic formula being that of turning soy bean oil, a liquid, into a solid through a process called hydrogenation: soy bean oil and hydrogen are combined with the aid of a catalyst such as copper. Almost any oil can be hydrogenated—this is how we get margarine—and over the years a few different waxes created through hydrogenation have come and gone from the marketplace, waxes such as Coto Flakes, made with cottonseed oil, and Opalwax, made with castor bean oil. Once soybean oil is hydrogenated, we call it “soy wax.” Various substances are then added to soy wax in order to make it suitable for one sort of candlemaking or another. Again, the exact formulations are proprietary.

The candles being advertised are scented (the website lists more than 50 fragrances, from “Laundry Day” to “Gratitude”) and sold in jars. A number of studies have shown that candles that are unnaturally scented and candles that are contained in jars are neither cleaner nor healthier than other candles. In fact, just the opposite. Apparently scented candles and candles in jars burn less efficiently than both traditional tapers and unscented candles in general, no matter the type of wax. Both scented and jarred candles are more likely to produce soot and to release questionable elements into the air.

So there is the story. I have written about soy wax and candle emission studies previously here in this blog and over at the site I used for composing the draft pages of the print version of my history of wax book. Links to those chapters and their references appear below. While working on the final print draft of the emission studies chapter, I came across more and more studies, two of which I have added to the original list.

To be sure, I am not concerned that people sell soy candles, scented candles, jarred candles, or any kind of concocted candle, nor am I concerned that people buy and enjoy whatever kind of candle they prefer. What I am concerned about is getting the story straight. Surely there must be something about these advertised candles that is not only appealing, but true, because that they are natural, cleaner, and healthier than other candles is simply not true.

Read “The Emission Studies”
The Chemistry and Technology of Waxes
Candles and Incense as Potential Sources of Indoor Air Pollution: Market Analysis and Literature Review” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2001
Emission of air pollutants from burning candles with different composition in indoor environments” Derudi, M., Gelosa, S., Sliepcevich, A. et al. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2014) 21: 4320.
Emissions of air pollutants from scented candles burning in a test chamber” Science Direct, 2012.
Determining and Evaluating the Emissions of PCDD/PCDF, PAH and Short-Chain Aldehydes in Combustion Gases of Candles” Schwind, K., Hosseinpour, J., Fiedler, H., Lau, C., Hutzinger, O., 1994.
Soybean Candles for Healthy Life and Well Being” USDA, 2006-2010.
Candlelight: A Dash Of Toxin With Your Romance? Hensley, S. National Public Radio, August 20, 2009.
US Trade Association Calls on South Carolina State University to Stop Promoting Bad Science, National Candle Association Press Release, 2017
Characterization of Scented Candle Emissions and Associated Public Health Risks” Krause, D. 1999.
Black Soot Deposition: How It Impacts IAQ” Krause, D., The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society Journal, 2001.

Additional references from the print version:
Fine, Philip M., and Cass, Glen R., Characterization of Fine Particle Emissions from Burning Church Candles, Environmental Science & Technology, 1999 33 (14) [June]. (Pp 2352-2362)
Fan, Cheng-Wei, and Zhang, Junfeng (Jim), Characterization of emissions from portable household combustion devices: particle size distributions, emission rates and factors, and potential exposures, Atmospheric Environment, Vol. 35, Issue 7, 2001. (Pp 1281-1290)

Read: “Oi Soy”
The Chemistry and Technology of Waxes
Old Efforts at New Uses: A Brief History of Chemurgy and the American Search for Biobased Materials, Finlay, M., Journal of Industrial Ecology, Volume 7, Issue 3-4, July 2003.
History of Industrial Uses of Soybeans. Page 1738, as well as preceding and subsequent pages. Soyinfo Center, 2017.
Soy wax development getting new attention, DeWitte, D., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, August 10, 2012.
William J. Hale obituary, New York Times, August 9, 1955.
Soybean World Production Trends, Potter, B., July 24, 2017.

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