Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Are Candles Made From Gel Wax Dangerous?

Are Candles Made From Gel Wax Dangerous?
There have been chain emails circulating around the internet claiming that gel candles are dangerous because they explode while they are burning. Here is an example of one of the emails:

"Thought you all need to know about this since you love to burn candles. This came from a friend in Texas. jw

My former secretary had a gel candle burning in her bathroom ... it exploded and caught her house on fire. The house burned down and they lost everything. The Fire Marshall told her that this is not the first incident where a gel candle has exploded and caused a fire. He said that the gel builds up a gas and often times it explodes and sets fire to the room it is in, which is what happened to her. The fire was so hot it melted the smoke alarm, and they didn't discover the fire until there was an explosion, which was her toilet blowing up, and then it was too late...the entire upstairs was engulfed in flames. Smoke damage and water damage have destroyed what wasn't destroyed by fire.

Another incident, "Mary" had one burning on her mantle and it caught fire just like the message above. She has at home at the time and saw it happen and grabbed the candle to keep it from setting her home on fire and it came apart in her hand. She saved her home but suffered 3rd degree burns to her hand and 3 fingers.

And as if those two stories weren't enough...My husband was home on vacation and had a gel candle lit on the top of the entertainment center. He too saw the candle burst into flames. His first instinct was to blow the candle out. Well, that didn't work; so he blew harder.... the gel from the candle splattered and went everywhere; everywhere including his face. He had 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree burns all over his face. The gel doesn't cool like wax does, so the bits that were still on his face continued to burn him. And you can't wipe the stuff off; it just rolls up and keeps burning. Another friend had a similar experience. She received as a gift a gel candle from Avon. It was contained in a wine goblet, was sort of purple gel with glitter in the gel. She had it on her dresser in the bedroom. Once when it was burning, the entire solid turned to liquid and the glitter pieces "jumped" randomly out of the wine glass, taking drops of gel with it, getting all over the dresser and window curtain. A weird scene to say the least. Needless to say, she put the flame out and emptied the remaining liquefied gel into the toilet."

The truth is that gel wax does not build up any type of gas that causes it to explode. But the burning of certain gel candles does pose a risk - candles that are in glass containers. Gel wax does not explode as is stated in the emails. But gel wax is not really a wax per se, like soy, paraffin, or beeswax. It burns much hotter than all of the other waxes and if the candle is in a glass container that is not heat resistant or has slight cracks or imperfections, the intense heat of the gel wax will cause it to shatter. So the gel itself is not dangerous and does not explode, but if it is in a weak container, the strong heat may cause it to break apart. Gel candles in strong heat resistant containers are safe to burn. Make sure you purchase your gel candles from a reputable source.

No comments: