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Do the negative ions released by candles outweigh the smoke?

 
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I've come across a few places that say that burning beeswax candles purifies the air by releasing negative ions (Here's one quote from Wellness Mama)

Pure Beeswax Candles on the other hand burn with almost no smoke or scent and clean the air by releasing negative ions into the air. These negative ions can bind with toxins and help remove them from the air.



And another from a beeswax candle company (https://www.beehivecandles.com/help/benefits-of-beeswax-candles/) that offers more caution about this claim

Beeswax candles are believed to produce negative ions as they burn. However, during our research we have found no published scientific evidence to date that directly proves this. Many of us experience an uplifting mood when burning beeswax candles and it’s been generally concluded that this feeling is caused by the negative ions.

“Generally speaking, negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, resulting in higher alertness, decreasing drowsiness, and more mental energy,” says Pierce J Howard, PhD, director of research at the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences.

Negative ions are most commonly found near moving water, such as crashing waves, thunderstorms, and waterfalls. The moving water causes the surrounding air to move and that along with sunlight and radiation breaks apart molecules of air. The broken pieces end up with extra electrons making them negative ions.

Most particles in the air have a positive charge. Negative ions and positively charged particles magnetically attract to each another. This causes the particle to become too heavy to remain airborne. As a result, the particle will fall out of the air and can be collected by normal cleaning activities, such as vacuuming or dusting. This action can help purify your air, cleaning the air of pollen, dust, dander, and odors.



What I'm wondering is, if candles do release negative ions, do these even counteract the smoke made by the candles?

Edit: When searching, I ran across another thread on candles and negative ions here on permies, where Mike Cantrell came to the conclusion that candles don't make negative ions.

Question: Do you feel healthier or less healthy when burning beeswax candles than normal lighting? During our recent power outage, we used a mix of beeswax candles that the kids had recently made, and 3 oil lamps (because the kids didn't want to burn all their candles), and they both have coughs now. They both coughed a lot more when we blew out the candles and there was more smoke. It feels to me like, even if the candles are purifying the air, it might not be outweighed by the smoke pollution they emit?
20200110_114758.jpg
Rolling beeswax candles a few days before the power outage
Rolling beeswax candles a few days before the power outage
 
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The short answer: The negative effects of the candle smoke are pretty evident, while the effect beeswax ions is questionable at best.

The long answer: In case the beeswax candles do emit ions I would expect them to get hung up in the other emissions they produce.

The moving water causes the surrounding air to move and that along with sunlight and radiation breaks apart molecules of air. The broken pieces end up with extra electrons making them negative ions.


As a physicist, I can only raise my eyebrows at that. Usually that is limited to high voltages and ionizing radiation (short UV and higher energy… something you do not want to get in contact with).
 
Nicole Alderman
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I kept doing more digging, and thought perhaps the best angle would be to look at the smoke and ways to reduce it. And since people with asthma are more sensitive to smoke, I added "asthma" to my search terms.

So far, it's looking like the faster something burns, the more smoke it produces. And, of course, parafin-based candles are worse, as they not only are made of petroleum, but also burn faster and not hot enough to do an efficient burn.

A study by scientists at Copenhagen University conducted on mice found exposure to particles from burning candles to cause greater damage than the same dose of diesel exhaust fumes. The harmful effects of candle smoke included lung inflammation and toxicity, arteriosclerosis, and ageing effects on chromosomes in the lungs and spleen.

....

Dr. Amid Hamidi from the University of South Carolina, who led the study, says the results showed paraffin-based candles produce several chemicals, mainly because they do not burn at a high enough temperature to destroy the hazardous molecules they emit, reports the Daily Mail. “An occasional paraffin candle and its emissions will probably not affect you,” he said. “But lighting many of them every day for years, or lighting them frequently in an unventilated bathroom, for example, may cause problems.” (See, you can relax – a little.)

Additional research from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finds scented candles to produce more soot than unscented, the particles of which can infiltrate deep into your lungs and be harmful to your respiratory system. And the wick matters, too. A longer candle wick will produce more soot and a smoky flame, which releases even more air pollution. So yes, candle smoke is bad for you and your lungs.


https://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/health/news-candle-smoke-could-be-as-toxic-as-cigarettes/

I found this pamphlet from the Asthma Society of Canada very helpful https://asthma.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/asthma_candles_eng.pdf

Wax:
• Burn soy candles rather than oil based candles. Soy-wax candles burn cleaner and
slower, are non toxic and do not emit petrol-carbon soot. Soy is both a renewable
and a biodegradable resource.
• Beeswax candles are a better choice than paraffin wax but often times a beeswax
candle will contain some paraffin wax. Beeswax candles produce a ‘cleaner burn’
compared to paraffin wax – a petroleum product.

Wicks:
• Wicks should burn down evenly with the wax.
• Choose candles with thin, braided wicks.
• Avoid candles with very thick wicks and those with a wire core holding the wick
upright.
• Avoid multiple wick candles.
• Candle wicks are often made of chemically grown, cotton that has been bleached
using dioxins.
• Wicks with metal down the middle are the most hazardous, as they contain lead

Scented candles:
• Materials used for aroma can be divided into two groups, essential oils/ plant
extracts or fragrant chemicals. Read the labels carefully before purchasing your
candles. Consumers can be fooled by product descriptions which lead them to
believe they are buying healthy, aromatherapy candles, when in reality the candle
is primarily a petroleum wax, with synthetic scent, synthetic fixatives and a small
amount of plant essential oil.
• Essential oils are extracted from trees, shrubs and flowers from all over the world.
Each essential oil has its own unique chemical makeup.
• Fragrant chemicals are usually derived from petroleum and sometimes animal
sources
• It is not uncommon for candle manufactures to combine artificial fragrances with
essential oils, or to dilute the essential oils with synthetic fragrance. Many
synthetic fragrance chemicals can pose a wide range of immediate and long-term
health hazards. Up to 95 percent of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic
compounds derived from petroleum.
• Avoid aromatic candles. If you do use a scented candle make sure the fragrance
used was specifically formulated for candle use. Avoid wax that contains volatile
aromatic hydrocarbons

Soot:
• Soot is a product of incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels, usually
petroleum-based. Soot results from use of candles and other indoor combustible
materials like incense, potpourri and oil lamps.
• Soot particles are very small and are easily inhaled and deposited deep in the
lungs. Soot discolours walls and furniture, and makes its way into the ventilation
system in your home. The very young, the elderly and those with respiratory
diseases like asthma should avoid exposure to candle soot.
• In order to obtain the romantic bright yellow and white light, candle flames
produce soot. If there was such a thing as a a soot-free candle, it would produce a
blue flame similar to those seen from a gas stove.
Burning the candle:
• Burning petroleum based candles release pollutants such as benzene, styrene,
toluene, acetone and particulate matter into the air. Candle soot contains many of
the same compounds given off from burning diesel fuel.
• Scented candles give off odours that often aggravate asthma symptoms. Monitor
asthma symptoms closely. Do not use candles when asthma symptoms are
present.
• Candles that are not properly manufactured, or that contain quantities of
fragranced oils that are not suitable for combustion can add to indoor to indoor
pollution.
• Place candles in a draft-free spot. Increase ventilation in rooms where candles are
burning, while avoiding direct drafts on the candles.
• Trim the wick down to _ inch, before lighting the candles to keep the flame low.
• Burn your candle in wide mouth containers. Narrow mouth containers restrict the
airflow resulting in flickering.



From what I was reading, it looks like beeswax has the slowest burn of all the waxes due to it's higher melting point.

Soy wax, which is made from hydrogenated soybean oil, and beeswax are the two longest lasting waxes. While beeswax typically lasts longer, it is more difficult to work with because it has an extremely high melting point.  


https://homeguides.sfgate.com/making-homemade-candles-last-long-89519.html

Another way to reduce the smoke is in how you put it out. Candles that are blown out kind of smolder, but ones that are extinquished with wet fingers die fast and therefore don't make all the smoke:

Wetting your fingers and quickly pinch the wick for a fraction of a second can eliminate the residual heat and stop the burning and the smoking.


https://upcyclingpro.com/which-type-of-candle-wax-burns-longest/

I'd like to have back-up lighting for power outages. It looks like the safest way to do this would be to make my own with beeswax and thin organic cotton wicks that have no metal (as that's usually lead) and to have the candle appropriately sized for for the burn--so candle burns down evenly with the wick. The beeswax candles we'd rolled--while fun!--had very thick wicks and burnt relatively quickly. They were also less dense since they were rolled and so had air gaps between the layers. I'm wondering if dipped or poured candles would burn more efficiently than rolled ones?

 
Sebastian Köln
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How about a few LED Lanterns?
You can get ones with good quality light, but they are expensive. (And probably not worth it for this use case?)

What I would look for:
- Biggest battery available (3-10Ah, 10-30Wh. highers numbers are most likely fake)
- if they take an 18650 better. you can buy them separately and charge them in a proper charger. Safer, faster and you can swap batteries should one run out.

https://www.ebay.de/itm/_/392596067217
https://www.ebay.de/itm/_/202736103699

- Batteries: 18650 (18,6mm diameter, 65mm long) Lithium-Ion are the standard batteries found in quality laptops, Tesla cars, e-bikes and in many more places.
- Even used they are still good enough for a lamp. New you can expect about 5-10€ per cell and 2000 - 3500mAh. For a light, a low current (C-rating) is sufficient.
- Avoid lamps with two or more batteries unless you have high quality cells, a good charger and keep track of each batteries capacity… (why)
- Avoid lamps that charge from AC. A good chance of a questionable charger and if it has a metal surface, electric shock.

https://www.akkuteile.de/lithium-ionen-akkus/18650/
 
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If candles are smoking isn't it because the wicks are too long?  They need trimming as often as you use them.

If you want to purify the air inside, plants do a really great job, especially vining ones that get a lot of leaves.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I figured I should update this thread!

We've switched to using primarily beeswax candles during power outages. I found that when we used oil lamps for three days straight during a power outage years back, we were all coughing. Now I use maybe 2-4 oil lamps (mostly wall hanging ones with chimneys that you can adjust the height of the burn), and everything else is candles. We no longer cough during power outages!

We made not just the rolled candles I posted above, but also bought a big brick of beeswax and dipped candles. I found that the dipped candles (1) were less bright than the rolled ones, and (2) made a lot less smoke, and (3) burnt a lot slower. The kids really love rolling candles, so we'll probably keep making some around the holiday season as a fun winter craft, but I plan on using the dipped candles a lot more.

both rolled and dipped beeswax candles


Added bonus, the kids LOVE dipping candles. I found that I could heat the beeswax on the woodstove, and it would stay warm enough for the kids to dip the candles safely without having to lean over the hot stove. The only downside to making candles, is that no one wants to burn away the candles they made!

20201130_145833.jpg
Heating the beeswax (it helps to have dedicated pots for this!)
Heating the beeswax (it helps to have dedicated pots for this!)
20201130_151400.jpg
They made tiny candles for their toys, too :D
They made tiny candles for their toys, too :D
 
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My guess would be that the rolled candles weren't 100% beeswax. The colors suggest the beeswax was metled down, mixed with other stuff, then moulded to look like natural beeswax sheets.
Glad the dipped ones are working well.
 
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Going back to the op, chlorate candles were used from around 1930 in submarines to release O2. I have no idea what else they may have released.
 
John F Dean
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While I have kerosene lanterns in my house for emergency use,  the negative long term effects of households in Africa using them are pretty well known.  
 
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I've used a Coleman camping lantern powered by the small propane cylinders but they're not recommended for indoor use.  I think it's a CO issue so they're only used with ventilation,  attended, and for short durations.  Usually just for doing things that require me to see better than is possible using  a battery powered lantern.
 
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People who have old, hopelessly inefficient masonry fireplaces will fill them with candles and open the flue just enough to suck out the goo. The effect is magic.

Candles are not healthy. Negative effects on indoor air quality; I don't think there's a way around it.

Chronic stress is not healthy either, and from what I've read is massively more toxic than burning a candle now and again.

Even if a big glass of wine accompanies the candle, I would speculate (or hope) that it comes out even at least. My 2c. Cheers.
 
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A little late to this conversation, but maybe someone else will make use of the following info anyway.
Having lived off-grid and in more remote locations (Hebrides, British Columbia, and elsewhere) for a few extended periods, relying on only candles & oil-lamps, I know there are a few important points regarding candles (and other non-electric lighting) that have been missing from the discussion here. I'll put them as succinctly as I can:
*  Beeswax is definitely preferable to paraffin wax candles for air quality. Paraffin wax may contain heavy metal residues among other contaminants, so should be at least given some ventilation, if not avoided.
*  As important as what you burn is how you burn it. Candles shouldn't be visibly smokey if burnt right. That means the flame needs to be as still as possible, not wickering, flickering, changing in size constantly. If available, a glass chimney that allows inflow of air at the base as well as outflow of hot air etc at the top, will go a long way to reduce any draughts that cause those problems. If the candle is in a 'quiet' spot and not subjected to much air movement, the burning environment at the flame permits temperatures locally that more fully combust the fuel. Much more light results also.
*  One cause of a smoking candle is if the wick is either the wrong size or not braided in the right way. If makiing your own candles, I suggest initially buying  wick from an outfit that knows what they are selling. If braiding your own wicks, learn the correct technique.  Properly braided wick material is made to not stand straight up, but to have a small curve.  In this way the tip of the wick remains within the actual flame and doesn't protrude outside the hottest part of it. That both burns the wick away at the right pace, and also ensures that the liquid wax it is wicking up to feed the flame is delivered to where it will be fully combusted.
*  The hottest part of the flame is not closest to the candle or wick, but in a mantle around and above the very central, slightly cooler part of the flame. Further outside and above that hot envelope of flame, temperatures reduce again of course.
* If a candle flame has a visible sharp tip extending up outside the hottest part, maybe looking a bit smokey or brownish, dipping up and down too, then it's not burning the fuel fully, so you're just getting less light and more smoke. The cause is usually from the wick being too long, wrong thickness, or not braided right.
* In an earlier era, correct braiding of wicks wasn't known, so then they would need repeated trimming with scissors etc to remove excess wick that didn't stay hot enough to burn away.  If you pinch out or snuff a candle it's a good idea to snip any charred excess length, so that when re-lit it will burn cleanly from scratch. You can even nip it off with fingertip and nail, leaving just an appropriate length for diameter of candle.
*  When buying wick material let the supplier know what diameter candle it is for, so you get the right thickness. A 2" square candle will need a slightly thicker wick than a 2" diameter round candle, to burn properly.

Same principles also apply to an oil-lamp, needing its wick to be raised or lowered carefully to keep the flame right-sized and clean-burning, giving good white light, with a soot-free glass chimney. Any time soot accumulates on the glass, it means the wick is either adjusted too high or needs to be trimmed smoothly (not square across the top, but in a gentle arc, higher in the centre). Before lighting, make sure the wick is slightly damp with fuel, not totally dry. Once it's lit & has had a chance to settle, gently wind the burning wick lower till the point is reached where there's a clean flame without smoke. Too low gives insufficient light, too high makes smoke.  Hollywood has yet to learn how to adjust an oil lamp it seems, with so many awful sooty lamps in period movies now, because almost no-one has had any experience of a life without electricity, I guess.

Much better lighting results come from using an Aladdin or other patent oil lamp that has an incandescent mantle. Much brighter, whiter light, very steady and usable to light a room.  Occasionally one is to be found that's in good shape, maybe even with the pretty patterned-glass diffusing globe still intact.  Worth hanging on to and caring for..
 
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