From protein-rich foods to sox wax and other eco-friendly consumer products, there seems to be no end to how this invaluable resource is used today: the Soybean!
The production of soy wax candles greatly benefits the American agricultural economy. If soy wax replaced paraffin wax completely, an estimated 60 million pounds of soybeans would be needed for annual candle production. On the other hand, paraffin candles are a byproduct of oil refining, thereby relying heavily on foreign crude oil markets for manufacture. Eventually the production of paraffin wax will likely become very cost prohibitive, as we continue to deplete the world's oil reserves. Since soy wax is a renewable agricultural resource, it supports sustainable economic as well as environmental practices.
Furthermore, soy candles do not emit the soot characteristic of paraffin candles. While the combustion of paraffin candles produces a considerable amount of soot, the combustion of soy wax candles produces little to no soot (1). Not only do paraffin candles leave black residue on the containers they were burned in, but prolonged use of these candles can stain your walls, ceilings, curtains or blinds, and even carpets or rugs (2).
To date, the EPA (nor any other organization) has not conclusively studied the long term health issues that may arise from burning paraffin wax candles compared to burning soy candles. However, the EPA did find organic chemicals and known carcinogens, such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein in paraffin wax (3). In addition, Rezaei et al. (1) studied the combustion characteristics of soy, paraffin and beeswax candles, and they concluded that measurable amounts of formaldehyde were detected when burning paraffin candles. We need to do further testing to clearly and unequivocally examine the potential health hazards of being exposed to possible respiratory irritants from paraffin candles compared to beeswax, soy wax and other vegetable wax candles. However, several studies have indicated that soy candles emit less soot and organic chemicals than their paraffin counterparts.
Another benefit of soy wax is that it is a biodegradable product. This means it cleans up easily with just soap and warm water. When cleaning up your soy candle holders, you no longer have to worry about the mess paraffin makes.
Lastly, soy wax has a much lower melting point compared to paraffin wax. This means our candles burn slower, and last between 30% to 50% longer, than paraffin candles of the same size.
Sources: 1. Rezaei, K, T. Wang, and L.A. Johnson. "Combustion Characteristics of Candles Made from Hydrogenated Soybean Oil." Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society 79: 803-808 (2002). Available at: http://www.springerlink.com/content/l318x06857621705/ 2. Krause, David. "Black Soot and Candles: New Research and Case Studies." Indoor Environment 1999 Proceedings. 3. Knight, L, A. Levin, C. Mendenhall. "Candles and Incense as Potential Sources of Indoor Air Pollution." EPA/600/SR-01/001 (2001). Available at: http://www.epa.gov/