Monday, January 22, 2007


The growing popularity of scented and decorative candles as a chic and inexpensive design element is prompting fire safety concerns.

Safety and industry officials are weighing new labels and standards for candle accessories that would lay out warnings more clearly. And the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association has stepped up its campaign to warn homeowners and children about the potential dangers of candles.

"People look at candles and see how calming and pretty they are and sort of forget they are dealing with a potential fire hazard," says Barbara Miller, spokeswoman for the National Candle Association, an industry group in Washington.

Americans bought $746 million worth of candles and accessories in 2006, up 2.3% from the year before, according to market-research firm ACNielsen. The number, based on sales from mass retailers, doesn't include additional sales from specialty stores such as Yankee Candle Co., a national candle retailer based in South Deerfield, Mass.

The number of fires sparked by home candles fell from 2003 to 2004 after climbing steadily from 1990 to 2001, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The fires prompted a public-awareness campaign by fire officials and the industry. But the popularity of specialty candles and continued house fires has safety officials and the industry focusing on new prevention efforts.

The National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Quincy, Mass., in 2005 dedicated a fire-prevention campaign to candle safety, running radio and print ads and giving fire departments lesson plans to use in classrooms.

ASTM International, a standard-creating organization for thousands of products and materials, is working on safety standards for candle accessories. Homeowners should always use a stable candle holder of fire-resistant material that is large enough to catch drippings, safety advocates say. Candle makers voluntarily use labels that warn people not to leave candles unattended, not to put them near combustible materials, and to keep them out of reach of children and pets.

Some homeowners learn that the hard way. In December, Windsor, Colo., homeowner Kelly Anderson accidentally started a fire when she lit a scented candle to get rid of the smell after cooking meat. When she put down some laundry, it caught fire. She and her family were unharmed but the blaze caused about $20,000 worth of damage and they had to spend four weeks over the holidays in a hotel.

-- January 19, 2007

By Sara Schaefer Munoz
From The Wall Street Journal Online


At 2:34 AM, Blogger HcoRealEstate said...

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