EPA Report: Candles & Incense
"Black Soot Deposition (BSD) is also referred to as ghosting, carbon tracking, carbon tracing,
and dirty house syndrome. Complaints of BSD have risen significantly since 1992 (Krause, 1999).
Black soot is the product of the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels. Complete
combustion would result in a blue flame, and would produce negligible amounts of soot and
carbon monoxide. Until recently, the source for the black soot in homes was unknown.
Through interviews and recent experiments, it is now believed that frequent candle burning is
one of the sources of black soot. The amount of soot produced can vary greatly from candle to
One type of candle can produce as much as 100 times more soot than another type."
Note: The following is from the EPA Report "Candles and Incense As Potential Sources
of Indoor Air Pollution: Market Analysis And Literature Review, " dated Jan. 2001.
Prepared by National Risk Management, Research Laboratory.
The report summarizes available information on candles and incense as potential sources of
indoor air pollution. It covers (1) market information and (2) a scientific literature review. The
market information collected focuses on production and sales data, typical uses in the US, and
data on the sources and quantities of imported products.
The estimated total sales of candles in
1999 varied between $968 million and $2.3 billion, while imports were $486 million. The US
imports and exports of incense in 1999 were $12.4 and 4.6 million, respectively. The scientific
literature review gathered information regarding the emission of various contaminants generated
when burning candles and incense, as well as the potential health effects associated with
exposure to these contaminants. Burning candles and incense can be sources of particulate
Burning candles with lead core wicks may result in indoor air concentrations of lead
above EPA-recommended thresholds. Exposure to incense smoke has been linked with several
illnesses, and certain brands of incense also contain chemicals suspected of causing skin
Table of Contents
1.A Economic Data on Candle and Incense Production and Sales
1.B Potential Indoor Air Quality Impacts of Burning Candles and Incense
3. Economic Data on Candle and Incense Production and Sales
4. Potential Indoor Air Quality Impacts of Burning Candles and Incense
Lead Wick Emissions
Musk Xylene, Musk Ketone, and Musk Ambrette
The purpose of this report is to collect economic information regarding the production and sales
of candles and incense in the US, including information about imports. A second objective is to
review the scientific literature regarding emission rates and potential human health effects
associated with burning candles and incense. The following is a brief overview of the findings.
1.A ECONOMIC DATA ON CANDLE AND INCENSE PRODUCTION AND SALES
The Census Bureau reports 107 manufacturing establishments; however, industry
estimates range from 160 to over 200 manufacturers. Many manufacturers are very small.
• Candle sales have been growing rapidly in the last 10 years (10 to 15 percent per year),
fueled by consumer interest in aroma therapy and increased demand for home fragrance
products in general.
• The Census Bureau reports a total value of shipments in 1997 of $968 million; industry
estimates put 1999 sales at $1.3 billion just for scented candles, and up to $2.3 billion for
• The top five countries that export candles to the US are China, Taiwan, England, Hong
Kong, and Mexico.
• There are no public data on incense manufacturers; private data show at least 26
manufacturers. Limited discussions with some industry representatives indicate that there
are probably many more very small manufacturers.
• The top five countries that export incense to the US are India, China, Thailand, Japan,
and Hong Kong.
1.B POTENTIAL INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPACTS OF BURNING CANDLES AND INCENSE
• Burning candles containing lead core wicks can result in indoor air concentrations of lead
above EPA-recommended thresholds.
• In the scientific literature we reviewed, zinc and tin were found not to be emitted at
concentrations that would raise concerns when burned indoors.
• One study showed worst-case scenario concentrations of acrolein, formaldehyde, and
acetaldehyde from candle emissions exceeding EPA-recommended thresholds.
• Sooting can occur when combustion conditions are impaired when burning candles.
Scented candles are more likely to produce soot than unscented candles. Sooting can
cause property damage by blackening surfaces. We could not identify any studies on
potential human health effects associated with soot from candles.
• Several studies indicated links between exposure to incense smoke and health effects,
including cancers and contact dermatitis. A few studies indicated possible mutagenic and
• Studies that examined the emissions of specific contaminants from incense smoke
indicated that benzene and particulate matter may be emitted at concentrations that could
pose human health risks.
The potential indoor air impacts of burning candles and incense have drawn increased attention
in recent years. For example, candles with lead wicks have been found on the market and have
been shown to emit lead when burned. Sooting associated with burning candles can cause
property damage by blackening walls, ceilings, and carpets. Incense smoke can be a major
source of particulates in indoor air. Emissions from incense may contain contaminants that can
cause a variety of health effects.
EPA is currently testing the emissions from candles and incense to generate data for analyzing
risk management options. To support this effort, this report collects and presents information on
the production and sales of candles and incense, the sources and quantities of imported products,
and the typical product uses in the US. This information will help EPA in assessing the nature
and extent of human exposure.
In addition, this report summarizes the results and findings in the scientific literature
regarding the emission rates of the various contaminants generated when burning candles and
incense, as well as the potential health effects associated with exposure to these contaminants.
EPA will use this information to further their research and understanding of the potential impacts
of these sources on indoor air quality.
3. ECONOMIC DATA ON CANDLE AND INCENSE PRODUCTION AND
A variety of candle types are manufactured in the US, including tapers, straight-sided dinner
candles, spirals, column, votives, tealights, wax-filled containers, and novelties. Some are
scented and all come in a wide range of colors. Wax candles contain petroleum wax, vegetable
wax, animal wax, or insect wax as the primary fuel. The wax may contain additives for color,
fragrance, stability, or to modify the burning characteristics.
Gel candles use liquids such as mineral oil, terpene-type chemicals, or modified hydrocarbons as
their primary fuel. These candles also contain chemical agents to increase the viscosity of the
fuel to the point where the candle has a quasi-rigid property.
Candles support one or more combustible wicks. Metal is put in some wick cores to keep the
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. Many companies
use a braided wick, which consists of three smaller wicks wound together to provide some
Lead was commonly used as a core material until 1974 when the US candle manufacturing
industry voluntarily agreed to discontinue use of lead in wicks. There are, however, still candles
on the market that contain lead wick cores. Most of these are imported. Zinc is commonly used
as an alternative metal core for the wicks, since it provides the desired amount of stiffness, burns
off readily with the rest of the wick, and the airborne particles from zinc wicks are considered
safer. (Telephone communication between Marianne McDermott, Executive Vice President,
Table 1: Total Sales of Candle Companies in 1999
National Candle Association, and Lynn Knight, ERG, August 18, 2000.)
Scented candles have grown in popularity and are widely used. The majority of candle
manufacturers offer scented candles. Seventy-five percent of the manufacturers who are
members of the National Candle Association (NCA) listed fragranced candles among the types of
candles they produce. Forty percent say they manufacture citronella candles (NCA, 1999).
Citronella is an insect repellant.
Number of Candle Manufacturers
The candle industry is a relatively small industry and does not have an abundance of publicly
available data. The 1997 Economic Census published by the US Census Bureau reports 107
manufacturing establishments with a primary North American Industry Classification System
(NAICS) product classification code of 3399995, defined as “candles, including tapers” (US
Census Bureau, 1999).
These establishments collectively employed 8,536 workers. The Census Bureau has very limited
data available since the industry is identified at the 7-digit level. ERG conducted an
online search of the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers. This search identified 160
However, the National Candle Association (NCA) estimates there are over 200 known commercial,
religious, and institutional manufacturers of candles in the US, as well as many small
craft producers (NCA, 1999). The NCA reports that 70 of their members are manufacturers
and represent roughly 80 percent of the market.
The three largest publicly traded manufacturers are Candle Corporation of America, Candle-Lite, Inc., and
The Yankee Candle Company, Inc. (NCA, 1999). A Merrill Lynch Global Securities analyst
reported that Yankee Candle Co. accounts for about 10 percent of industry sales. It has 100
stores and plans to open 40 per year (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 1999).
A private market study by the Packaged Facts group reports that the candle industry is not only
growing, but is undergoing some consolidation. This trend is not limited to smaller companies,
but has included some of the leading manufacturers and marketers succumbing to stronger, better
financed companies (Packaged Facts, 1999). This source believes that company buyouts are
motivated by parent organizations attracted to making acquisitions in a thriving market and then
helping these acquisitions grow their product lines and increase market share. For example,
Yankee Candle’s partnership with Forstmann Little was reportedly undertaken specifically to
fund a major expansion (Packaged Facts, 1999).
Internet sales of candles have been increasing. Many smaller candle companies are emerging and
doing well selling their products on the Internet, as the appearance of prominence can be
obtained with a nice looking Web site. Selling on the Internet allows these manufacturers to sell
candles at a reasonable price, since they can pass on savings accrued by avoiding middlemen,
slotting fees paid to retailers, and advertising costs (Packaged Facts, 1999).
There have been many types of new entrants to the growing candle market. Market research
analysts believe that new marketers are attracted to this burgeoning market because candles are
relatively simple to make, color, and fragrance, and novelty designs easily attract the buyer’s
attention (Packaged Facts, 1999).
The scented candles market has seen a lot of cross-category
encroachment, as fashion designers, perfume manufacturers, and specialty chain marketers
introduce their own lines of candles. For example, upscale retailers, such as The Gap, Pottery
Barn, Pier One, and the Bombay Company, are marketing scented candles under their own
trademark. SC Johnson, too, began selling candles fragranced with many of Glade’s air freshener
trademark scents (Packaged Facts, 1999). Meanwhile, dedicated candle outlets, like Yankee
Candle, White Barn Candle Company, and Illuminations, are expanding throughout the US
(Packaged Facts, 1999).
The 1997 Economic Census reports a total value of shipments for candle manufacturers of
$968.3 million. Companies with shipments of $100,000 or more accounted for 98 percent of
shipments, or $951 million. In 1992, shipments for these larger companies were $366 million.
The value of shipments increased more than 2.5 times over this 5-year period.
The source of these estimates is not disclosed in the NCA publication. 3
This figure was interpreted from the Freedonia Group’s prediction that sales would increase 8.1 percent
annually to reach $1.6 billion in 2003.
The NCA states that the US candle consumer retail sales for 1999 are reported at $2.3 billion, not
including candle accessories. NCA further reports that sales of all candles (unscented, scented,
and for institutional and religious uses) have been growing 10 to15 percent a year since 1990
(the source of these estimates is not disclosed in the NCA publication)
The Packaged Facts report claims that the growth of scented candles alone is close
to 22 percent per year. This same report estimates that scented candles represent 55 percent of the
$2.4 billion total home fragrance market, or $1.3 billion in scented candle sales. Another source,
The Freedonia Group, estimated that 1999 candle sales were $1.17 billion. (This figure was
interpreted from the Freedonia Group's prediction that sales would increase 8.1 percent
annually to reach $1.6 billion in 2003.)
Unity Marketing, another private marketing research firm, conducts annual surveys among gift
manufacturers who produce and market candles and candle accessories. The most recent survey,
which had 37 respondents, was conducted in 2000 and covered 1999 sales. The survey results
showed an upward trend in total annual sales for 1999, with average company sales among
respondents up 39 percent from $10 million in 1997 to $14 million in 2000. In 1999, 39 percent
of companies surveyed reported annual sales of more than $10 million as compared with only 27
percent in 1997. (See Table 1.)
|Total Annual Sales
(Dollars in Thousands)
|Percent of Candle
Companies Surveyed (a)
$26,000 - $50,000
|$11,000 - $25,000
|$6,000 - $10,000
|$1,000 - $5,000
|$500 - $999
(a) These statistics do not cover only candle manufacturing. They include
manufacturers of candle accessories as well. Fifty-three percent of
companies surveyed owned their own factory facilities. Figures do not
add to 100 percent.
Source: Unity Marketing, 2000.
Candles are sold through a variety of distribution channels. According to the Unity Marketing
survey, specialty retail stores capture a large portion of candle sales. (See Table 2.) Packaged
Facts estimates that 51 percent of 1998 scented candle sales were attributable to mass
merchandisers, 36 percent to supermarkets, and 13 percent to drug stores. (Unity Marketing and
Packaged Facts each based their estimates on different distribution channel categories, thus not
allowing direct comparisons.)
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