I'M SUPRISED that candles with lead-cored wicks are still being sold in the Philippines. These candles are already banned here and in other countries. The Ecowaste Coalition said these candles are still sold in markets like in Binondo, Manila. Most are colored red and placed in glass containers shaped like gourd, lotus, and pineapple.

In 2016, the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised the public against "the purchase and use of all candles with wicks containing lead, candles in metal containers that contain lead, and wicks sold for candle-making that contain lead an imminent hazard to public health."

Lead is used to keep the candle wick standing straight when the surrounding wax begins to melt. The metal prevents the wick from falling over and extinguishing itself as soon as the wax fails to support it. As the lead-cored wick candle burns, some of the lead may vaporize and released into the air. The airborne lead maybe inhaled or deposited unto floors or other surfaces. Lead poisoning in children is associated with behavioral problems, learning disabilities, hearing problems and growth retardation.

There are safe alternatives to lead-cored wicks such as zinc, synthetic fibers, cotton and paper. Zinc is an essential element for human health. However according to a an US EPA report, inhaling large amounts of zinc (as zinc dust or fumes from smelting or welding) over a short period of time (acute exposure) can cause a disease called metal fume fever. Very little is known about the long-term effects of breathing zinc dust or fumes (Eco-USA.net, 2000).

Other potentially toxic products to watch out for are scented candles. According to the U.S. EPA, scented candles are a major source of candle soot deposition. When soot is airborne, it is subject to inhalation. The particles can potentially penetrate the deepest areas of the lungs, the lower respiratory tract and alveoli (Krause, 1999). Meanwhile, FDA said that scented candles that use essential oil are not known to have any negative health effects. Smokes or scents emitted by candles are not known to trigger allergies in hypersensitive persons. Additionally, FDA said that that candles made from beeswax are considered safe.

Most candle wax paraffin are saturated hydrocarbons that are solid at room temperature. Most fragrance oils are unsaturated hydrocarbons and are liquid at room temperature. The lower the carbon-to-hydrogen ratio, the less soot is produced by the flame. Therefore, waxes that have more fragrances in them produce more soot. In other words, candles labeled "super scented" and those that are soft to the touch are more likely to generate soot.

During Undas, candles are lit in open air, except probably those in mausoleums. However, the sheer number of candles lighted during Undas releases tons of pollutants into the air. In our homes, toxic candles are dangerous as they cause indoor pollution.

Let's all be safe as we remember our departed loved ones this Undas.