Earthen diyas earlier symbolised Diwali. But nowadays, decorative candles of a variety of hues and shapes have replaced the traditional lamp.
In some cases, their utility has gone beyond illumination and decoration. With the concept of aroma therapy catching on, scented candles are increasingly being used in different parts of the house to dispel gloom and spread cheer. That whiff of aroma emanating from them also creates the right mood for relaxation and festivities.
Their increasing popularity should, however, not blind us to the fire hazard posed by them.
In the United States, where candles have been found to be one of the major causes of home fires, the Consumer Product Safety Commission regularly monitors the quality of candles sold in the market and orders recall of those found to be unsafe.
This June, for example, it ordered the withdrawal of “swan creek” candles after 89 complaints of high or erratic flames, besides four reports of minor burns. Similarly in February, it recalled a large number of scented candles packed in beautifully designed ceramic vessels on the ground that the candles could burn with a high flame.
In 2001, an analysis by CPSC of candle-related fire accidents revealed that in most cases, the cause was the proximity of a combustible substance. It also found that while in some cases, pets or children knocking down the candle had resulted in the fire, in others, the glass container had broken down on account of the heat. In some more cases, the candles had burnt till the end, igniting the surfaces on which they had been placed.
The quality and the filling of wax, the placement of wicks and sturdiness of containers may be the factors that determine the safety of candles, but their usage is also an important factor.
So, choose candles whose shapes give them stability and, therefore, are less likely to fall (slim, tall ones can fall more easily).
Also, choose those with a well-centred wick. If the candle is made badly with the wick stuck to a side, there is every possibility of the burning wick coming in close contact with the sidewalls of the container, damaging or breaking it. Examine the containers too.
I have seen candles in beautiful coconut shell containers — they look attractive, but the shell catches fire when the wax is exhausted.
Always place candles on flat, firm and heat-resistant surfaces, away from paper, clothes, curtains and other flammable substances. Do not keep them on wooden surfaces or on low surfaces where there may be knocked down.
Before lighting the candle, trim the wick to a quarter of an inch to ensure that the flame does not grow tall. It is also better to extinguish the candle when there is still some wax left. And the most important part is to extinguish the candle when you are leaving the room or when you are going to sleep.
Vineeta Agarwal: I bought some packets of candles for Diwali last week and found that the packages neither indicated the MRP nor the address of the manufacturer. The shopkeeper said that since they were from China, they need not put the MRP. Is this correct?
Under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, all pre-packed commodities meant for retail sale should indicate the MRP as well as the name and address of the manufacturer. If it is an imported product, the name and address of the importer has to be mentioned. Please complain to the department of legal metrology.