Recall: Candles With Lead-Core Wicks Warn

December 10, 1976  
Release # 76-086

CPSC Warns Of Potential Risk Associated With Certain Candles With Lead-Core Wicks

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 10) -- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission today warned consumers and religious groups that they may be subjecting themselves needlessly to airborne lead through use of candles containing lead-core wicks.

The amount of lead vapor given off by such candles is small and does not, by itself, present an unreasonable health hazard, but the additional lead may present a problem for persons exposed to other sources of lead poisoning, such as older housing with lead-based paint, or in urban neighborhoods with high concentrations of automobile exhaust. The hazards of lead-poisoning are well documented, particularly in infants and young children where brain damage may result.

In December 1973, the Health Research Group, a Washington, D.C.,-based public interest group, submitted a petition but at that time, the Commission found that the risk of illness was not sufficient to declare lead-wick candles an imminent hazard and ban them as the petition requested. In view of the known harmful effects of lead ingestion and the growing concern over amounts of lead in the environment from a variety of sources, the continued use of lead-core wicks in candles may be unwise.

After the petition, the majority of the industry responded with a commitment to discontinue the use of lead-core wick as soon as a satisfactory substitute could be found and within the year, lead-wick candles were virtually off the market and the sole known producer of lead-core wicking discontinued its production and distribution. The Commission commends this action by the industry.

However, it has recently come to the Commission's attention that three firms are producing lead-core wicking and that it is being purchased for use in candles. One firm has decided to cease production and sale of the wicking. Two other firms are continuing to produce lead-core wicking. The remaining two are the Queens Braidworks, Inc., Middle Village, Queens, New York; and the American Wick Company, North Bergen, New Jersey. The primary use for this new wicking appears to be in glass container candles and votive lights used by churches. Votive lights are in some cases burned perpetually and in large numbers.

Since candles with lead wicks may continue to be available to consumers, the Commission is considering various options, including a labeling requirement so that all such candles can be identified as containing lead wicks. In the meantime, consumers can easily identify candles with lead-core wicking by a close examination of the candle wick. The lead wire running through the center can be exposed by peeling back the surrounding cotton braid. In view of the ready availability of adequate substitutes for lead wicks in candles, the Commission wishes to remind consumers and candle manufacturers of the needless, potentially harmful effects associated with their continued use.