In'toxic'ating moments

Published: Thursday 15 June 2000

According to a new study, a romantic candlelight dinner may turn out to be more hazardous to your health. Environmental chemist Jerome Nriagu of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor found that when burned some candles with metal wicks gave off lead. The dark, shiny metal wick cores are used to make the wick more rigid and to slow burning. Nriagu tested 15 different brands of candles with metal wicks all purchased in Michigan stores. The candles burned in a combustion chamber for 2-4 hours, and the fumes were captured in a trap containing nitric acid, which dissolved the lead aerosols. The amount of lead in the solution was measured using an atomic absorption spectrometer. Then he calculated the amount of lead that accumulates in a room 3.6 m by 4.5 m by 3 m or around 50 cubic metres in volume after burning each candle for two hours. The Lead concentrations in the room were estimated at 0.04-13.1 m/m3, in some case far exceeding the us Environmental Protection Agency (epa) ambient air quality of 1.5 m/m 3 .

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