Candles can be found in almost any home. They’re pretty, make excellent gifts, and they smell fantastic. But they can actually release harmful carcinogens into the air.
These carcinogens are due in part to the petroleum byproduct that they are made of called paraffin.
In order to create paraffin, petroleum is chemically bleached, deodorized (this is when the scent is added), and then made into the wax that you burn as your candle.
If all that sounds uncomfortably unpleasant for you, you will not want to read on.
When these candles are lit the paraffin wax omits VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, which include acetone, benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, and acrolein which are also known harmful carcinogens.
Are candles good for the air?
While your air is being perfectly scented like a gingerbread house this season, it is also simultaneously pouring toxins into your air; ruining the quality of it.
As mentioned above, the wax that is used in the composition of your candle plays a large role in the harmful emissions it gives off.
But did you know that your wick could also be to blame? Wicks are the top contributor of soot that your candle produces, and it can last in your air for days, especially in areas where there isn’t a lot of air flow, such as a guest bedroom or bathroom.
The most toxic wicks are metal, and it’s important to try and avoid those when shopping for a candle. But, if you truly can’t see yourself buying more expensive candles (more on that later), you should make sure you have air filters in place at your house.
It’s also important that you change the filters in their recommended time frame, or you could invest in free standing air purifiers.
Do they take oxygen out of the air?
Burning a candle won’t obviously impair your health greatly to the point of hospitalizations, but it’s important that you do not sleep with a candle burning in your room.
A high percentage of people sleep with their door shut, and while your candle is burning, the candle continuously consumes the oxygen in your air and converts it into carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
As it continues to burn throughout the night, the air you inhale will be filled with a high percentage of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, without adequate air flow or intake of clean air and oxygen.
This does not make for quality air while you are asleep, and can negatively impact your health.
What fumes do they give off?
As previously mentioned candles do give off harmful toxins.
A lot of the fumes they give off are commonly found in diesel fuel emissions.
Not only are these bad for our lungs and air quality, these toxins also are direct links to health problems such as asthma attacks and skin problems.
(Dry, red, irritated and scratchy skin are common signs of skin problems.)
Do candles disinfectant the air?
In a study from the University of South Hampton, it was shown that adding in essential oils to candles such as orange, eucalyptus, and thyme are potent enough to repel and kill bugs. Dr. Lindsey Gaunt suggests that putting these oils in candles can be as effective as scrubbing with disinfectants that are meant to prevent bugs.
But, with the ongoing pandemic it is highly recommended that you continue to disinfect your house, not only for pest control but for overall health as well.
But have no fear, you don’t have to get rid of your candle habit overall. We deserve to be able to scent our house like a rainforest, fresh cut grass, or lemon basil.
In order to do this in a safer way you can find alternatives to burning your regular candles all the time, or you can look for healthier versions of the candles you already love.
Alternatives to burning a scented candle constantly include:
- Wax Warmers: These flame free scented beauties work their magic by warming candle wax and releasing fresh fragrance in the air without the harmful soot and contaminates your candle wick may give off.
- Essential oil diffusers: An essential oil diffuser is an incredible vessel. It gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Not only does an essential oil diffuser fill your home with warm and inviting scents, (which often offer therapeutic properties) they can also act as a humidifier during those dry winter months. They are offered in various designs that are often stylish, and compact, so they can often fit in with any decor or space.
- Reed diffuser: This is another popular option that often uses essential oils. The main reason reed diffusers are so popular is because they dispense scent for several weeks on end. All you have to do is set the sticks in the diffuser vessel of your choice and leave it. The reed diffuser is the best option for busy people. You do not have to worry about flame, wax, or remembering to plug it in. Just set the sticks, and leave.
- LED/ flameless/ electric candles: If you burn candles for the soothing flicker light properties alone, then an electric candle is for you. You can turn down the lights, turn on your candle and just enjoy the soothing glow. No flame, soot, or paraffin wax involved.If you absolutely cannot live without your flickering scented candles there are safer and healthier options for you to consider. While these candles may be on the pricier side, they can put your mind at ease because they give you the luxury of a candle without a negative expense to your overall air quality and health. These mindful options include:
- Beeswax: A benefit to using a beeswax candle other than cleaner air, is that because of the beeswax allowing the flame to burn at a hotter rate the candle and wick can fully combust. So, while this may be a more expensive option, you get your money’s worth when you can burn the candle almost entirely. This type of candle is also entirely smoke free and produces no soot.
- Soy: Soy candles are also a clean alternative when you are looking for a new candle to burn. But it’s important to check that your candle is 100% soy. Many times a candle can be labeled as “soy” but actually be around 90% paraffin with only 10% of it being actual soy.
- Wicks: It’s important to try and find wicks that are 100% cotton. Avoid metal wicks, and try to use candles that are scented with pure authentic fragrances such as essential oils.
Synthetic fragrances are often problematic for those with asthma, and they are often found in paraffin wax candles.