23 June 2000 Media Statement
Poisonous Candles Banned
Consumer Affairs Minister Phillida Bunkle today announced a ban on candles containing lead in their wicks.
Tests show that the candles can cause lead poisoning, emitting 500 to 1000 micrograms of lead per hour into the air when burned.
"The injury risks from lead poisoning are well known, but many don’t realise they are exposing themselves and their children to this risk by burning these types of poisonous candles," Ms Bunkle said.
The lead-wick candles are also subject to a federal ban in Australia.
The candles causing the problem have a metallic thread in the wick and tests have revealed that in some instances the threads are lead. Others are zinc and not unsafe. The Minister said the lead threads are very easy to bend, and will make marks on paper like a pencil does.
People unsure about their candles at home could check by looking for a silvery or dark metallic core to the fabric of the wick.
"I urge people at home to check their candles – it will be easier to spot on a new candle but if, while burning the candle you notice silvery droplets at the wick tip and silvery metallic droplets at the base of the molten wax pool then you should be suspicious of them. I urge consumers to throw suspicious candles out," Ms Bunkle said.
"When these products were first discovered on the market, suppliers had been co-operative in withdrawing them from the shelves when asked to do so. However the candles keep creeping back into the market and my officials have advised me that the most effective way to protect the public is to ban their supply."
Ms Bunkle said she was declaring the candles and candle wicks containing lead to be unsafe goods under section 31 of the Fair Trading Act.
The ban comes into effect as soon as the unsafe goods notice is published in the New Zealand Gazette within the next week.
Once the notice has been gazetted retailers and importers will be breaching the Fair Trading Act if they supply, offer to supply or advertise to supply these types of candles. The importation of these candles and candle wicks will also be prohibited.
The penalties for breaching the new ban are substantial – individuals could be fined up to $30,000 and a company up to $100,000. The Commerce Commission is responsible for enforcing unsafe goods notices under the Fair Trading Act 1986.
Other dangerous goods have been banned under the Act such as pistol crossbows.