Can burning a candle really reduce the mold spore count in my home?
Candles are a super-popular home decor item, and they add to the ambiance of a home through their appearance and smell, making it cozy or sophisticated or elegant with the “snap” of a match or lighter. Unfortunately, the VOCs and particulates aerosolized by most candles make them more of a health detriment than a plus. Burning a candle against mold, however, is a new concept, and like so many other products, the benefits all depend on WHICH candle you’re burning!
Several companies have formulated candles that actually reduce mold spore counts in the air while the candles burn. Like the Bipolar Ionization technology, where ions are sent out into the air instead of using a “filter” to grab all pollutants, the flame of the candle is not the main part that kills mold spores. For the EC3 Air Purification Candle by MicroBalance Health Products ($43 for 3), the flame melts the non-toxic soy wax and releases a proprietary natural blend of citrus seed extracts, that includes Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE). (per the manufacturer’s answer to client question here). The product is all natural and uses no petrol-chemicals, unlike traditional paraffin candles.
In studies, GSE has been proven to be incredibly bactericidal even at minute dilutions: at 1:512 parts water to GSE, the extract kills gram negative and gram positive bacteria, yet is non-toxic to human cells. (The effectiveness of processed grapefruit-seed extract as an antibacterial agent: II. Mechanism of action and in vitro toxicity)
However, other studies are not so positive. In this 1999 study, 6 commercial GSE formulations were tested and 5 of the 6 were very effective against 7 germs, including 1 yeast. It turns out that these 5 GSEs also had traces of the synthetic antiseptic agent benzethonium chloride (a quat), while the 1 remaining GSE that contained no preservative, did not effectively eliminate the germs. The study concluded “Thus, it is concluded that the potent as well as nearly universal antimicrobial activity being attributed to grapefruit seed extract is merely due to the synthetic preservative agents contained within. “ The American Botanical Council (proclaiming to be “your source for reliable herbal medicine information”) also confirmed, “A significant amount, and possibly a majority, of ingredients, dietary supplements and/or cosmetics labeled as or containing grapefruit seed extract (GFSE) is adulterated, and any observed antimicrobial activity is due to synthetic additives, not the grapefruit seed extract itself. “
Digging into studies on GSE against fungus found that these were mainly in liquid form. This one showed it was effective against different types of fungus that affect asparagus plants, when used in conjunction with clove, Dahlia and Chrysanthemum extracts. This study pitted GSE against candida (yeast) strains that tended to form a biofilm on denture resins, and it did very well. Another study of GSE showed that it eliminated 3 Candida species that commonly infected patients with dentures. This is great news for sufferers of oral candidiasis, but does aerosolizing citrus seed oil extracts (including GSE) work the same way?
Although it’s not clear how citrus seed extract vapors attack mycotoxins, we did find that the EC3 candle was tested by RealTime Labs in 2012, with excellent results. According to the letter from the lab (copied from this mold expert’s website), “Results showed that within 3 hrs of exposing the EC3 candle to known concentrations of mycotoxins, no mycotoxins were detected, if known levels of any mycotoxins were 250 ppb or below. Concentrations of 500 to 1000 ppb were decreased by 90% in 3 hours…Given the experimental situation created in our laboratory, the EC3 candle will eliminate aflatoxins, ochratoxins, and trichothecenes at concentrations of 250 ppb or less and will reduce these toxins by 90% in 3 hrs at concentrations of 500 to 1000 ppb.”
Given that mycotoxins are hard to destroy (most are highly resistant to heat and antimicrobials), this is very good news. MicroBalance Health Products, the maker of these candles, is an established company (founded in 2009) whose products are based on the work of Dr. Donald Dennis, a practicing Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon who discovered that mold was the culprit of many of his clients’ health issues. The citrus extract blends he developed are also used in their body supplements (shown here in their free sinusitis wellness protocol), so it’s probable that the citrus seed extracts used in their products (not just the candle) are of great purity.
Another company, CitriSafe, also uses citrus extract blends in their Remedy Maintenance Candle ($16 for 1 candle) and mold solution sprays, however I could not find any studies or testing data for them. The research behind Citrisafe Remedy products and MicroBalance Health Products (as well as BioBalance) was developed by pharmacist Dr. Walter Hayhurst and JW Biava (founder and CEO of Immunolytics, a laboratory that tests for mold and mycotoxins) in the early 2000’s. (podcast with JW Biava), therefore it’s likely that the citrus extract blends in these products are very similar.
Both MicroBalance Health Products and Citrisafe recommend using their candles with a broader treatment plan for mold in your home, but if there’s a space you spend a lot of time but you have less control over, like your office or hotel room (if you travel a lot), the candles may help significantly to clean up the air in that space. When it comes to mold, every little (non-toxic) bit of help is welcome!