What’s Wrong with Soy Candles? Are They Bad for You?

When Michael Richards invented soy candle wax in 1991, it was heralded as a healthier and more natural alternative to paraffin at a lower cost than beeswax. Since then, detractors have criticized soy for not being as healthy or sustainable as people initially claimed. What’s wrong with soy candles—are they as bad for you as some people say?

In general soy wax in candles are not bad for you unless an additive such as a dye or fragrance is used.

Although there have been recent claims that soy wax in candles is not healthy or environmentally sustainable. Here are four claims made by people about soy candles that are controversial that will be covered in this article: 

  1. They are made from GMOs.
  2. They release toxic fumes.
  3. They contribute to rainforest depletion.
  4. They contain poisonous dyes.

 Just because people say these things about soy candle wax doesn’t mean they’re true. But if they are authentic, it would mean that soy wax potentially poses hazards to both humans and the environment, and you may choose not to use soy wax in your candles.

Of course, you also don’t want to avoid a perfectly healthy candle wax because of fake information. So, let’s look a bit closer at these claims to see if they could be valid.

Are Soy Wax Candles Dangerous to Humans and the Environment?

If you’ve read any of my other articles, you know how deeply I care about making safe candles that are as environmentally sustainable as possible. My research indicates that soy wax is one of the safest and most ecologically sustainable candle waxes you can use. Read on to find out how I came to this conclusion.

Claim 1: Soy Wax is Made from GMOs

What’s Wrong with Soy Candles? Are They Bad for You?

 If you buy soy wax from a company that says it isn’t genetically modified, the company is probably stretching the truth.

That’s because genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are used in at least 98% of soybeans grown worldwide. That means about 100% of the soybean wax you buy contains GMOs.

Why Are GMOs Bad?

GMOs are not necessarily harmful, but many people assume they are. Why?

Because the idea of modifying a natural product scares people. In reality, however, foods with GMOs have to undergo rigorous scrutiny by the Food and Drug Administration before finding their way to grocery shelves. And there have been no scientific, peer-reviewed studies that show GMOs are bad to consume.

One scientist writes that people finding fault with GMOs despite evidence to the contrary is “intuitively appealing.” Since they are modified, it makes sense to people that GMOs would be harmful, so they look for evidence to support this theory, even when it doesn’t exist.

So, Are GMOs Good?

It will probably be years before science comes up with a conclusive answer to this, if ever. GMO agriculture was invented to make plants healthier, easier to grow, and more environmentally sustainable. Generally, it seems that the GMOs in use today, including soybeans, meet this goal.

The Verdict on Soybeans and GMOs

While many candle makers promote beeswax and coconut wax by saying it is more environmentally sustainable than soy wax because of GMOs, I challenge this assertion and encourage you to think about this claim seriously before you take it at face value.

People have been modifying agricultural products since 8,000 BCE, when farmers started using cross-breeding and selective breeding with plants and animals to make them have more desirable characteristics. The first GMO product approved for human consumption was insulin to treat diabetes. No people have ever been found to have been explicitly harmed by GMOs.

I am not saying take what I have to say at face value either. I am not a scientist, nor do I claim to have the definitive answer to the safety and environmental sustainability of GMOs.

But I have concluded for myself that the GMOs used in soy candle wax pose no issues for the environment or health, which is one reason why I will continue to use it.

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Claim 2: Soy Wax Releases Toxic Fumes When Burned

What’s Wrong with Soy Candles? Are They Bad for You?

If you’ve been following soy wax in the news lately, you may have come across claims that soy wax releases toxic fumes when burned.

It might have come as a shock to you that people would even make this claim, given the fact that soy wax has a reputation for being one of the cleanest burning waxes out there due to its propensity to produce less soot than other candle wax types.

So, does soy wax release fumes?

The Toxicity of Soy Wax

The answer to this is no. Or, more specifically, there is no scientific, peer-reviewed evidence that burning a candle with soy wax is any more toxic than any other candle type.

Multiple candle blogs and companies allege that studies show that soy wax candles release formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals as they burn. But these blogs never link or footnote to the “studies,” obviously calling into question where this information is coming from.

The Toxicity of Paraffin

The toxicity of paraffin might also have been overstated. Paraffin is a petroleum by-product, so it does make sense that its burning could have toxic or carcinogenic properties.

In this study on burning paraffin wax in a small room, researchers found that while some toxic substances with carcinogenic properties like formaldehyde were created, it was in insufficient quantities to cause issues, according to the guidelines established by the World Health Organization.

If paraffin isn’t even toxic, then how could soy wax be?

The Verdict on Soy Wax Toxicity

The answer: it’s probably not. After all, scientists aren’t saying soy wax is toxic, but many beeswax and palm wax producers are. Presumably, by claiming soy wax has toxic properties, they can drive higher sales of their own products.

And I don’t have an issue with beeswax or palm wax either. I merely challenge the assertion that soy wax is toxic because I haven’t seen any evidence to back it up.

In fact, soy wax’s non-toxicity is yet another reason why I will continue to use it.

Claim 3: Soy Wax Contributes to Rain Forest Depletion

What’s Wrong with Soy Candles? Are They Bad for You?

Another accusation leveled at soy wax is that it’s made from a product that heavily contributes to deforestation, especially of the Amazon rainforest. Soybeans are said to be a significant driver of deforestation in Brazil, where soybeans are cultivated on 24 million hectares of land.

Soy and Deforestation

While cattle and the world’s demand for beef is the most significant contributor to deforestation, soybeans are another primary driver. Not just for their use in soy wax, but also because soybeans are a common component of cattle feed and oil used to fry foods in fast-food restaurants, not to mention its demand as an ingredient in multiple other foods.

The Verdict on Soy and Deforestation

The way I see it, soybeans themselves are not causing deforestation, just like I don’t feel I am burning down the rainforest because I like to eat beef. I do support rainforest protections and employing the best practices for agriculture (which is why I generally support GMOs incidentally).

There is always a potential for abuse if sustainable farming techniques are not employed with any kind of natural candle wax—beeswax, coconut wax, soy wax, palm wax. If I can, I like to buy soy and other waxes from U.S. farms, where I know it undergoes at least a measure of oversight, and the rainforest wasn’t cleared to make room for a soybean field.

Simply put, there is no perfect wax, natural or otherwise, that is environmentally sustainable in every situation. Despite the connection some people make between soybeans and the disappearing rainforest, I am comfortable buying sustainable soy from American farms like this brand here.

Claim 4: Soy Wax Candles Contain Poisonous Dyes and Fragrances

Like the allegations that soy wax is toxic, this is another claim that has been, in my mind, overblown, if not an outright lie. There isn’t evidence that any commercially sold candle fragrances or dyes are poisonous.

Lead Wicks

The U.S. has banned the import and sale of lead wicks since 2003. Any wicks you buy from a U.S. store will not contain lead if you are worried about this causing soy or other candles to be toxic.

The Verdict on Soy Wax Candles Containing Poisonous Dyes and Fragrances

Ensure that the wax or dye you plan to use in your candle is approved explicitly for candle use. Also, make sure that you add it to your candles in the proper quantities.

Realize that many people are sensitive to perfumes and fragrances. For some people, they can cause headaches and other issues. Be mindful of this before burning scented candles when you have visitors.

The other thing to remember is that inhaling smoke can be harmful. While the amounts of smoke and soot caused by a burning candle are usually not enough to cause human health issues, it’s best to avoid burning multiple candles in an area for extended periods in an area that is not well ventilated.

Related Questions

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1. What happens if you overheat soy wax?
If you overheat your soy wax, you could find that it causes quality issues with your candles. At high heat, soy wax separates and becomes unstable. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for maximum heating temperatures and always use a double boiler.

2. Why does my soy candle have a hole next to the wick?
The hole was caused by an air bubble that became trapped when you poured your candle. To avoid air bubbles in your soy candles, make sure you thoroughly stir your wax when it is warm to encourage all the air to escape.

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Please note that the contents of this blog are for informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any action taken based on the information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Additionally, all images used in this blog are generated under the CC0 license of Creative Commons, which means they are free to use for any purpose without attribution.