NONFOODS: Candles: Bright idea

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NONFOODS: Candles: Bright idea

Retailers will soon see new labeling on at least some candles they sell that will help educate their shoppers on how to burn candles safely -- regardless of what language those shoppers speak -- thanks to the innovative use of nonverbal pictograms.

West Conshohocken, Pa.-based standards body ASTM International revises candle fire-safety labels once every five years. The revisions usually call for changes in type size and format, or a reordering of the precautionary statements. This most recent revision, however, includes images as well as new text, to more effectively drive home the message of safety to consumers.

"We felt that pictograms are important because of the growing number of dual-language markets," says Barbara Miller, spokeswoman for Washington-based trade group the National Candle Association (NCA). "There are three fire-safety statements that have to be on each candle, and if the candle is sold in multiple-language markets, those three statements must be repeated in each language. If we switch to pictograms, which are designed to be universal across languages, we can avoid this problem."

Say it in pictures

The revised ASTM F-2058 standard includes for the first time the optional use of pictograms in conjunction with the trio of textual cautionary statements on all candle labeling. The standard was developed with input from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, as well as the candle industry.

Although pictogram usage is optional and can only appear as a supplement to the mandatory written warnings, the NCA is now encouraging manufacturers to add pictograms to their fire-safety labels whenever possible. The association plans to launch a national public education campaign on the pictograms and what they symbolize, with the goal of making them so universally recognized that they can eventually replace the textual precautions.

Reproduction-quality images of the pictograms are available on NCA's Web site at

A copy of the revised ASTM F 2058-07 standard is available for sale at