U.S. Commission Warns of Lead Poisoning Risk in Certain Candles Containing Lead Core Wicks

The potential risk of lead poisoning associated with certain candles containing lead core wicks includes some kind of yahrzeit candles but not Chanuka candles, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was informed by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.

The JTA inquiry was based on the Commission’s warning to consumers and religious groups that “the amount of lead given off by such candles is small and does not, by itself, present an unreasonable health hazard, but the additional lead may present a problem for persons exposed to other sources of lead poisoning, such as older housing with lead-based print, or in urban neighborhoods with high concentrations of automobile exhaust. The hazards of lead poisoning are well documented, particularly in infants and young children, where brain damage may result”

The Commission, however also pointed out that the “risk of illness was not sufficient to declare lead wick candles an imminent hazard and ban them,” as a petition from the Health Research Group, a public interest body in Washington, had asked in December, 1973. The wiring, a spokesman said, is used to stiffen the wicks. While this is used in some types of candles in Jewish homes, it is not found in Chanuka candles since they are too small for wiring.

The Commission said that “consumers can easily identify candles with lead core wicking.” It pointed out that “the lead wire running through the center of the wick can be expose by peeling back the surrounding cotton braid.” The “primary use” for this wicking “appears to be in glass container candles and votive lights used by churches,” the Commission statement said.

In its statement, the Commission reported the two firms continuing to produce lead core wicking are the Queens Braidworks Inc., of Middle Village, Queens, New York, and the American Wick Company of North Bergen, N.J.

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