For many people, home wouldn’t be the same without scents from candles, room sprays, plug-ins, incense sticks, and oils, filling the air. However, in addition to adding scent, they may also be adding health risks from:
- Paraffin wax
- Lead-core wicks
- Synthetic fragrance
While people with asthma, allergy, or chemical sensitivity are more likely to be impacted by scented candles, exposure to the chemicals they contain isn’t a great for anyone.
Most candles are made of paraffin wax (a petroleum waste product that is chemically bleached), which creates highly toxic benzene and toluene (both are known carcinogens) when burned. In fact, the petro-soot released from paraffin candles are the same as those found in diesel fuel fumes and can be as dangerous at second-hand smoke. In 2001, the EPA concluded that burning paraffin candles emit harmful toxins and increase health risks with multiple exposures.
Candle wicks can also be a source of toxins. In the US, candle wicks are supposed to be made of cotton or paper, but lead-core wicks can still be found, especially in products manufactured in China or Taiwan. A candle with a lead-core wick releases five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children and exceeds EPA pollution standards for outdoor air. You don’t even need to light the candle to be exposed to chemicals, simple evaporation from an uncovered candle can release pollutants into the air and touching a candle can cause absorption of chemicals through the skin.
The synthetic fragrances that create candle scents usually contain phthalates. As candles burn, phthalates are released into the air where they may be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Once they enter the bloodstream, they can aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms in some people and have been found to alter hormone levels.
Don’t want to give up the warm glow of candlelight? Make healthier choices by opting for candles that are:
- Made from all-natural products like beeswax or soy
- Have paper or 100% cotton wicks
In addition, if you are burning candles to cover up an unpleasant odor, you may be masking a real problem, such as mold or mildew, that can impact your health. If there is a scent in your home that you find unpleasant, track down the source of the odor so you can remedy the problem and not just cover it up!
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ARE YOU CONCERNED YOUR HOME IS MAKING YOU SICK?
Our guide on indoor quality will help you diagnose possible issues and implement intelligent solutions to improve the quality of the air inside your home.