Consumer group finds dangerous lead in candles

Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) - Couples who light candles for a romantic dinner - or because the power goes out - could put enough lead into the air to endanger small children, said a study released Thursday by a consumer advocacy group.

Of 285 candles bought in the Washington area, 86 were stiffened with metal and nine of those used high amounts of lead, the Public Citizen study said. Most of the candles came from China or Taiwan and one came from Canada, reported Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe, director of the organization's health research group.

U.S. candle makers agreed in 1974 to stop using lead under a voluntary accord with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which investigated lead in candles and found no specific health risk.

Last year the commission began another investigation, spokesman Russ Rader said.

``We don't know that there is any kind of health hazard associated with leaded candles,'' he said. ``Anytime we get reports of lead involving consumer products it's a concern of ours.''

Wolfe said the candles tested released lead amounts that exceeded what the commission says is dangerous for kids under six years of age - taking in more than 15 micrograms - 15 millionths of a gram - in a day.

``In roughly 20 minutes walking or toddling or crawling into the room with any of these candles burning, when it's at the peak concentration...would cause more than 15 micrograms to be ingested,'' he said.

The Public Citizen study concluded that when the lead-wick candles burn for three hours they can produce average air lead concentrations ranging from nine to 33 times higher than recommended by federal guidelines.

The National Candle Association, which represents American manufacturers and distributors, said the majority of wicks manufactured in the United States are made with 100 percent cotton and no metal core. Those with metal are typically made with zinc.

To test for lead, consumers can take the metal core of an unused candle and rub it on paper. A lead wick will leave a mark like a pencil; zinc and tin wicks will not.

The candle association said the United States manufactured 375 million pounds of candles in 1998 and imported 30 million pounds, most of those from China.

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