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You've unplugged the phone, filled the tub and added your favorite essential oils

You've unplugged the phone, filled the tub and added your favorite essential oils. All that's left to do is light the candles. But stop if those candles aren't natural, you may be cheating yourself.

Many commercial candles are made from paraffin. It seems innocent enough it's what candles are made from. But what's lesser known is that paraffin is actually the grayish-black sludge that oozes from the backside of the petroleum refineries. It's bleached, texturized with a carcinogenic product called acrolyn, chemically colored and artificially scented.

If that's not enough to turn you off of dollar-store deals, the grime on your walls may be. Paraffin burns with a black soot that coats your walls, household furnishings not to mention your lungs. The Agricultural Engineering Department at Purdue University issued a report last year that stated "Paraffin contains aromatic compounds which are released when candles are burned that are detrimental to health." Also, some candle makers use lead or zinc to make the wicks rigid. Not something you would want burning inches from you!

There are many natural alternatives to paraffin. The federal government has even recognized some 100-per-cent plant-based candles in its Environmental Choice Program. Including unbleached cotton wicks with a paper cord, or natural plant fibre wicks, these are a much more eco- and health-friendly choice. Among this type of candle are soy bean wax candles.

Beeswax is the ancient alternative to paraffin. Make sure that it's 100 percent beeswax many that say beeswax on the label only contain a percentage of the real thing.

Beeswax is naturally scented and is much cheaper to burn than paraffin, because it burns slower. Like plant-based candles, beeswax burns with no smoke, avoiding the soot from paraffin. In fact, there have been claims of the health benefits of burning beeswax.

At the centre of the health benefits is the idea of "negative ions." Science has shown that anything floating in the air (dust, pollen or toxic residues) is doing so because it is positively charged. Beeswax is the only known fuel that produces a negative ion when burned. The theory is that a proper balance of negative ions bind with the positive ions, balancing the floating molecules and causing them to fall to the ground.

One last thing you should check before you get everything ready for a candle-lit dinner or evening is the scent in a candle. Natural essential oils are best, but this can be hard to check as candle makers aren't required to list ingredients. Choose a candle from a company that discloses its ingredients and has health in mind.

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