Dangers of Scented Candles
Scented candles are popular for creating a cozy and relaxing atmosphere in your home. They can also help you unwind and de-stress with their soothing aromas. But are scented candles safe to use? Or are they secretly harming your health?
In this blog post, we will explore the potential risks and benefits of burning scented candles, and how you can enjoy them without compromising your well-being.
What are scented candles made of?
Scented candles are typically made of paraffin wax, which is a by-product of petroleum refining. Paraffin wax is cheap and easy to work with, but it also contains traces of chemicals that may be harmful when burned.
Some scented candles also contain synthetic fragrances, which are mixtures of various chemicals that mimic natural scents. Synthetic fragrances can be derived from petrochemicals, or from natural sources like plants or animals.
Some people prefer natural alternatives to paraffin wax and synthetic fragrances, such as beeswax, soy wax, or plant-based waxes. These waxes are renewable and biodegradable, and they may have fewer toxins than paraffin wax. However, they can also be more expensive and harder to find.
How do scented candles affect your health?
Burning scented candles releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM) into the air. VOCs are gases that can have various effects on your health, depending on the type and amount of exposure. PM is a mixture of tiny solid and liquid particles that can enter your lungs and bloodstream.
Some of the VOCs and PM that scented candles emit include:
- Toluene: A solvent that can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.
- Benzene: A carcinogen that can increase the risk of leukemia and other cancers.
- Formaldehyde: A preservative that can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, and allergic reactions.
- Acetaldehyde: A by-product of alcohol metabolism that can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea, vomiting, and liver damage.
- Acrolein: A by-product of burning fat that can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, coughing, shortness of breath, and lung damage.
- Phthalates: A group of chemicals that are used to make plastics and fragrances more flexible. They can disrupt the endocrine system and affect reproductive health.
- Soot: A black substance that is composed of carbon and other impurities. It can stain walls and furniture, and cause respiratory problems.
The health effects of these chemicals depend on several factors, such as:
- The amount and duration of exposure
- The type and quality of the candle
- The size and ventilation of the room
- The individual sensitivity and health status of the person
For most healthy people, occasional exposure to scented candles may not cause significant harm. However, some people may be more vulnerable to the effects of scented candles, such as:
- People with asthma or allergies
- People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other lung conditions
- People with cancer or weakened immune systems
- Children and pregnant women
For these people, scented candles can trigger or worsen symptoms such as:
- Running nose
- Watery eyes
- Stuffy nose
- Tightness in the chest
- Difficulty breathing
- Hives or skin rashes
How can you use scented candles safely?
If you love scented candles and want to use them without risking your health, here are some tips to follow:
- Choose high-quality candles that are made of natural waxes and fragrances. Look for labels that indicate the ingredients and origin of the candle.
- Avoid candles that have metal wicks or lead cores. These can release toxic metals into the air when burned. Opt for candles that have cotton or paper wicks instead.
- Trim the wick to 1/4 inch before lighting the candle. This will prevent the flame from becoming too large and producing excess smoke and soot.
- Burn the candle in a well-ventilated area. Open a window or use a fan to circulate fresh air in the room. Avoid burning candles in small or enclosed spaces where the pollutants can accumulate.
- Do not burn the candle for more than 3 hours at a time. This will prevent the wax from overheating and releasing more chemicals. Extinguish the candle when there is 1/2 inch of wax left at the bottom.
- Keep the candle away from flammable materials, children, pets, and drafts. Follow the safety instructions on the candle label and never leave a burning candle unattended.
The Bottom Line
Scented candles can be a wonderful way to enhance your mood and environment, but they can also pose some health risks if used improperly. By following these tips, you can enjoy the benefits of scented candles without compromising your well-being.