Recalls in Review: A monthly spotlight on trending regulatory enforcement issues at the CPSC.

As winter temperatures continue to drop and we’re all looking for a way to feel cozy, many Americans reach for candles as a way to bring some light into their homes during these dark months.  We don’t need to detail why candles – hi, open flames and hot wax! – regularly attract the CPSC’s attention in their mission to keep consumers safe.  In today’s installment of “Recalls in Review,” we look back at CPSC regulatory actions involving both candles and candle-related products.

The Commission has conducted at least 115 recalls of candles and candle-related products since 2001.  The recall data available on the website reveals a small enforcement “spike” that occurred between 2005 and 2008, followed by a fairly steady number of recalls nearly every year since 2008.

Three civil penalties relating to candles and candle-related products have been issued by the Commission, the most recent of which was in 2008.  The civil penalty fines ranged from $100,000 to $500,000.

Our analysis found various types of candle-related recalls: only half of the recalls involve concerns with the candles themselves, while the rest are caused by issues with the vessel or container into which a candle is poured, or problems presented by candle accessories such as candle holders or wax warmers.

Most often, candles are recalled due to the height of the candle’s flame.  Problems can also be caused by decorative objects added to the candle wax during manufacturing as well as paint, glitter, or other surface coatings on the candle.

Twenty percent of the relevant recalls involve an issue with the container that the candle was poured into, such as a ceramic or glass bowl or a metal tin.  Twenty-six percent of recalls involve separate holders into which candles can be placed.  For example, taper candle holders were recalled just last month due to a concern that the holders could catch fire if they came into contact with a candle’s flame.  Other recalled accessories include candle lighters, candle charms, and paper candle shades.

Unsurprisingly, nearly ninety percent of the relevant recalls address fire or burn hazards.  The Commission recently published news releases in November and December of 2020 reminding consumers to never leave burning candles unattended.  The other ten percent of recalls address laceration hazards.  The laceration recalls all involve glass candle holders and candles in glass jars, which could crack, break, or shatter.  Only one candle related recall since 2001 was conducted to address a hazard other than fire, burn, or laceration – that 2008 recall was of candle pendants and charms, which had been sold both separately and on candles, due to excessive levels of lead.

The most common remedy offered by recalling firms is a refund or store credit.  Less often, the remedy may be limited to a replacement product or instructions regarding safe use of the product.  However, four of the recalls provided no remedy for consumers.  In those instances, the recalling firms simply urged consumers to dispose of the products.

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About Recalls in Review: As with all things, but particularly in retail, it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s trending with consumers.  Regulatory enforcement is no different – it can also be subject to pop culture trends and social media fervor.  And this makes sense, as sales increase for a “trending” product, the likelihood of discovering a product defect or common consumer misuse also increases.  Regulators focus on popular products when monitoring the marketplace for safety issues.

As product safety lawyers, we follow the products that are likely targets for regulatory attention.  We share our observations with you through Recalls in Review.