Feb. 14, 2001
Ban on Lead-Wicked Candles Welcome, Long Overdue
Statement of Peter Lurie, MD, MPH, Deputy Director, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, on Decision by Consumer Product Safety Commission to Ban Candles with Lead Wicks
The unanimous 3-0 vote by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to grant Public Citizen’s petition to protect consumers from lead poisoning by banning hazardous candles with lead wicks is both welcome and long overdue. While consumers wait for the CPSC to complete the long-delayed process that it is just now starting, they can take actions to protect themselves from the dangers of lead-wicked candles. Because lead-wicked candles are indistinguishable from candles with wicks made from other metals, consumers should stop buying candles with metal wicks, not burn the ones they have and 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 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. The CPSC has now granted that petition.
While she voted to grant the petition, Commissioner Mary Sheila Gall also voted to refer it to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This delaying tactic is unacceptable because it could result in children continuing to be exposed to toxic levels of lead.
Lead wicks are unnecessary in candles, and the industry has acted recklessly by continuing to manufacture them. Now the agency should complete the notice and comment necessary to complete the rulemaking as rapidly as possible.