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More Public Citizen Information on Lead Wick Candles

Press Release on Petition to Ban Lead Wick Candles

Public Citizen Calls on Consumers to Boycott Metal-Wicked Candles

January 25, 2001 

To avoid exposure to hazardous levels of lead, consumers should stop buying candles with metal wicks and should not burn the ones they have, Public Citizen said today. Burning lead-wicked candles for three hours can lead to average air lead concentrations ranging from 10-36 times higher than permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to research conducted last year by Public Citizen and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last July.

"Because there is no reliable way to know whether a candle with a metal wick contains lead, the only way to ensure that you are not exposed to lead from candles is to simply not buy metal-wicked candles," said Dr. Peter Lurie, deputy director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. "If you have bought such candles, we urge you not to light them or to return them to the store unless there is clear proof that they do not contain significant quantities of lead."

In 1973, Public Citizen petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ban lead-wicked candles. The agency denied the petition, relying instead on a voluntary agreement with the candle industry to stop making lead-wicked candles. By the late 1970s, however, the manufacture and sale of lead-wicked candles resumed, exposing millions of children to the well-documented neurological and developmental dangers of lead.

Consequently, on Feb. 24, 2000, Public Citizen again petitioned the CPSC to ban lead-wicked candles and order a recall of all metal-wicked candles. On Dec. 13, 2000, CPSC staff members recommended that lead-wicked candles be banned. The staff did not address the issue of a recall. CPSC commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at the CPSC offices at 4330 East-West Highway in Bethesda, Maryland, to consider the staff's recommendation.

Even if the CPSC votes to grant Public Citizen's petition, it could still be years before the rulemaking process is completed. In a Jan. 25 letter, Public Citizen urged the CPSC to speed up the process.

"Lead in candles is a completely unnecessary and avoidable source of lead poisoning," said Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. "There can be no excuse for snail's-pace rulemaking or for leaving these hazardous products on the market in the meantime."

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