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 November 2007

Spreading the Word on Candle Safety

The arrival of the holiday season means more candles will be lit over the next three months than are lit throughout the rest of the year. While candles are an integral part of many celebrations, their misuse can be dangerous. According to statistics on the National Fire Protection Association Web site, the three days each year that accounted for the most home candle fires over the period from 2000-2004 were, in order, Christmas day, Christmas Eve and New Year’s day. “This is a time when candle fires are very prevalent, much more prevalent than other months of the year,” says James Becker, chair of Subcommittee F15.45 on Candle Products, part of ASTM International Committee F15 on Consumer Products.

The NFPA Web site does include some encouraging news: the number of reported home candle fires has begun to decline after climbing steadily from 1990 to 2001. This is the kind of statistic that spurs on the continuing work of F15.45.

Becker says the subcommittee was formed in 1997 after the Consumer Product Safety Commission approached the National Candle Association about the increase in home candle fires. It was decided that ASTM International was the proper venue for the development of standards on candle safety. Becker, a consultant to the candle industry with his company, Candle Solutions, joined ASTM at the inception of F15.45 and became chair of the subcommittee in 1999.

Subcommittee F15.45 began its standards developing activities with F 1972, Guide for Terminology Relating to Candles and Associated Accessory Items, which was first approved in 1999. “After this, we looked at data from NFPA and CPSC and found that many candle fires that were started in homes were from consumer misuse or inattention,” says Becker. “So we decided to develop a labeling standard that we would provide for bullet points on labels so that people could become more knowledgeable about what they should or should not do with candles.”

The resulting standard, F 2058, Specification for Cautionary Labeling for Candles Burned in a Home, focuses on three warnings that should be placed on candles to ensure safe usage. These warnings are:

  • Burn within sight.
  • Keep away from things that catch fire.
  • Keep away from children.

In 2002, the subcommittee approved a provisional standard for candle fire safety. This standard addressed such issues as flame height of candles, secondary ignition of other materials in or on candles, and end of useful life and stability issues (candles tipping over). This standard became F 2417, Specification for Fire Safety for Candles, in 2004.

The most recent standard developed by F15.45 is F 2601, Specification for Fire Safety for Candle Accessories, which covers three types of accessories that can cause or contribute to candle fires: rings, burners and holders.

In addition to these standards, Subcommittee F15.45 has also developed standards that address issues of glass candle containers and visible emission (F 2179, Specification for Annealed Soda-Lime-Silicate Glass Containers That Are Produced for Use as Candle Containers, and F 2326, Test Method for Collection and Analysis of Visible Emissions from Candles As They Burn).

Becker notes that all of the standards developed by F15.45 have been data-driven. These statistics come from various reports issued by CPSC, NFPA and other organizations that track data on fires.

Currently, the subcommittee is contemplating a revision that would add coverage of plastic tea light cups to F 2417, as well as changes regarding labeling options for candle rings and flammability requirements on candleholders to F 2601. Participation from all interested parties is welcome in the activities of Subcommittee F15.45. The subcommittee meets each year in association with National Candle Association meetings.

In addition to chairing the subcommittee, Becker chairs the candle fire safety task group that has developed and maintains F 2417 and F 2601. The task group meets four to six times a year in Columbus, Ohio, with attendance of 20 to 25 participants from a broad array of companies and organizations per meeting.

Becker believes that working through ASTM International has been a very effective way to develop standards which will improve candle fire safety. “The process brings together all interested parties to develop pertinent standards and articles like this one help to spread the word about candle safety during the holidays and throughout the year,” says Becker. //