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Christmas Candles May Release Lead Fumes

Watch Out - Christmas Candles May Release Lead Fumes

In settlements with the Commerce Commission over the last two months, five businesses have recalled banned candles that have wicks containing lead.

The businesses are Freedom Furniture Limited, Spotlight Stores (NZ) Limited, Glatt Holdings Limited trading as Casa, Designer Closeout Limited and Cosmopolitan Agencies Limited.

Commission Fair Trading Act Manager Ross McPherson said that all five businesses have admitted that they breached the Act by selling banned candles. Spotlight and Casa are retailers, which were supplied by Cosmopolitan Agencies. Freedom Furniture and Designer Closeout are also retailers, but they imported their own stock.

Freedom Furniture and Spotlight signed settlements in October, Designer Closeout and Casa signed last month, and Cosmopolitan Agencies did so last week.

The Minister of Consumer Affairs has banned candles that contain lead in their wicks because they can cause lead poisoning.

Burning the candles releases lead fumes into the air. Lead is absorbed into the body much faster when it is breathed in with air than when it is swallowed. People breathing lead fumes will absorb more of the lead then they would if they swallowed or sucked on the lead.

Mr McPherson said that the banned candles can be identified because they have a metallic thread in the wick. The metallic thread allows the wick to burn longer.

Not all metallic threads are lead, some may be zinc. However, the Commission is aware that some zinc threads are contaminated with lead. Such candles are also covered by the ban, even if the level of contamination is low.

The only way to ensure that a metal thread in candlewicks does not contain lead is to have it scientifically tested.

The Commission has decided to end these investigations with settlements including undertakings by the traders that they will recall the candles, offer refunds to consumers and ensure that unsafe candles or wicks are not sold in future. The Commission can take court action if a settlement is not honoured.

Courts can fine companies up to $100,000 and individuals up to $30,000 for breaches of the ban.

Media contact: Fair Trading Manager Ross McPherson Phone work (04) 498 0909, cellphone 021 627 909, home (04) 232 6004

Senior Advisor Communications Vincent Cholewa Phone work (04) 498 0920, home (04) 477 0039

Commission media releases can be viewed on its web site

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