Candles are safe if they are manufactured to a high standard and used sensibly.
But otherwise they can be dangerous. That is obvious. They involve naked flames and burn wax which includes chemicals.
And there have been a lot of accidents. For example, UK government statistics show 1,059 accidental fires caused by candles in 2012-2013, with 401 injuries.
And – while this happened in the US – it seems rock legend Ozzy Osbourne (OK, not a man known for taking excessive safety precautions) once set fire to his own hair in a domestic candle incident.
So it’s not paranoid to think that there need to be quality and safety standards.
It may seem less obvious that such rules are needed at EU level. But in the end, the single market can only allow trade with minimum red tape if there are common standards across all Member States. If there were 28 different sets of standards for candles, manufacturers – whether based within the EU or outside it – would need to produce different products to comply with each of those sets of national requirements, at potentially vast cost. And there would need to be more – and more complex –checks and inspections, causing huge delays and more costs. The end result would be that consumers would pay much more and might be less safe as well.
This is why there have long been European standards for candles. For the record, these currently come under three headings: EN 15426:2007 – Candles: specification for sooting behaviour; EN 15493:2007 – Candles: specification for fire safety; EN 15494:2007 – Candles: product safety labels.
The European Commission, taking account of all available evidence, consulted technical experts on whether safety requirements need reinforcing.
Member States – at official level – gave their provisional agreement. And a draft decision has now been submitted to the European Parliament and the Member States.
But – importantly – there is no final decision yet on any stronger rules. The Commission is very clear that EU rules in any area must be proportionate and reasonable. So Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has asked First Vice-President Frans Timmermans to look into this matter and to report back to the other Commissioners.
Meanwhile, parts of the media have expressed outrage that “Brussels” – which in fact means EU governments and directly-elected MEPs as well as the European Commission – should, as the Daily Express put it, be even considering a “barmy scheme” to regulate candles.
There is little doubt that the same newspapers would be the first to complain if dangerous candles were being imported or if safety standards were found otherwise wanting.
Finally, on its website the Express linked again to its web page from earlier this year containing a series of untrue and/or misleading stories about alleged “crazy EU rules”. Our response to that is here.