American authorities have banned products with lead-core candle wicks.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says manufacturing them or selling them will be illegal by this October because of the lead poisoning hazard to children.

"The ban...should give parents with young children peace of mind," said CPSC chair Hal Stratton.

The commission's own study found some of the lead-core wicks can emit large amounts of lead while burning. Children can inhale the vapourized lead or face exposure by putting objects in their mouths after the lead has coated the objects.

Some of the candles tested by the commission emitted lead levels at seven times the allowable rate.

The CPSC found a voluntary industry agreement in the 1970s to remove the lead from wicks still meant a small of amount of them were being sold.

The lead is found in the core wick, a metal piece inserted into the candles to support the wick providing an even, slower burning rate.

Lead poisoning can cause problems such as learning disabilities, hearing problems and delayed growth.

The commission says votives, pillars and tea lights, scented candles and candles that produce puddles of wax are more likely to contain a lead core than other types.

Studies have shown candles made in the U.S. or Mexico consisted of zinc or lead-containing alloys. Leaded candles have recently been banned in Australia.

They are still available for sale in Canada but the federal government has urged the Canadian candle industry to stop manufacturing and importing candles with lead core wicks. Look for candles that are labelled lead-free.

Health Canada estimates 10 per cent of candles sold here have lead-core wicks most of them are from China or Taiwan.

  1. Remove any wax from the tip of the wick
  2. Separate the fibre strands from the wick to see if the candle has a metallic core
  3. Rub the core on a piece of white paper
  4. If the mark on the paper is grey, then the metallic core is probably lead