Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Are Scented Candles Bad For You?



Short answer

Scented candles may pose health risks due to emissions of VOCs and substances like toluene and benzene from paraffin wax, which can be carcinogenic. Burning can also degrade indoor air quality and soot may contain toxins. Opt for natural wax candles and ensure good ventilation to mitigate risks.



Long answer

The flickering light and soothing fragrances of scented candles have, for centuries, been a staple in homes for relaxation and atmosphere. However, beneath the cozy ambiance may lurk health hazards that are often overlooked. While scented candles can seem harmless, growing evidence suggests potential risks associated with their regular use.

What's in Your Scented Candle?

Scented candles typically consist of a wax base, a wick, dye for color, and synthetic fragrances or essential oils for scent. Paraffin wax, a common base, is a byproduct of petroleum and, when burned, can release harmful chemicals like toluene and benzene 2013 both known carcinogens. This is a stark reality overshadowed by the allure of a candle's warm glow.

Chemical Soup in the Air

Burning scented candles can significantly degrade indoor air quality. The fragrance oils used to imbue candles with their pleasant aromas can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when heated. Studies have shown that these VOCs can possibly trigger allergy symptoms, asthma attacks, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health identified numerous hazardous chemicals in the emissions of scented candles that can pose a risk to human health.

Fear in the Fumes

The concern does not stop with the chemical composition of the candle's smoke. When you light a scented candle, you may be ingressing minute particles of soot into your home environment. An investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) highlights that candle soot can contain toxic substances and, over time, permeate walls, furniture, and our respiratory systems. Could the very item we use to destress be silently contributing to a rise in respiratory and other health complications?

Lead Wicks: A Smoldering Threat

In some frightening instances, candle wicks have been found to contain lead cores, which, when burned, emit hazardous levels of lead into the air. Although lead wicks are banned in many countries, older candles or those from unregulated sources may still pose a risk. Chronic exposure to lead can have severe health consequences, particularly in children and pregnant women, where it can interfere with neurological development.

What You Can Do to Mitigate Risk

While the information here might make you wary, it doesn't mean you must extinguish your love for scented candles altogether. Opt for candles made from natural waxes like soy or beeswax, which burn cleaner and are less likely to produce harmful emissions. Choose those with wicks made from cotton or paper without a metal core. Additionally, limit candle burning time and ensure proper ventilation to minimize any potential build-up of toxic substances in your home environment.

The Bottom Line

Are scented candles bad for you? The potential health risks they raise cannot be snuffed out completely. As a mode of relaxation, their use comes with a price tag that encompasses more than just dollars; it may include your health. Deciding whether to light that fragrant candle requires a weighted consideration of the facts and potential risks always bearing in mind that what's meant to induce tranquility shouldn't undermine your well-being. Be cautious, be informed, and choose wisely for the sake of your health.

Frequently asked questions

While the main focus regarding scented candles is often on their potential risks, some people may experience psychological benefits such as improved mood, reduced stress, and a sense of comfort from their aroma. However, these benefits must be weighed against the possible health risks, and it is advisable to choose candles made with safer materials and to use them in a well-ventilated area.

Consistent exposure to the harmful chemicals and soot emitted by some scented candles could contribute to long-term health issues, particularly respiratory problems or the aggravation of pre-existing conditions like asthma. Prolonged exposure to toxins like toluene and benzene may also increase the risk of cancer. To mitigate long-term risks, opt for candles made with natural ingredients and ensure adequate ventilation when using them.

To identify if a candle has a lead wick, look for a metal core at the center of the wick. Some wicks with metal cores may still be safe (such as those made from zinc), but to avoid potential lead exposure, specifically seek out labels indicating 'lead-free' or choose brands that are reputable and comply with national safety standards, which ban lead wicks.

Soy, beeswax, or coconut wax candles are excellent alternatives to paraffin candles as they burn cleaner and are biodegradable. Opt for those scented with natural essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances to minimize the release of VOCs and choose candles with cotton, wood, or paper wicks. Additionally, consider using diffusers with essential oils or unscented candles for ambiance without fragrance-related risks.

Ask a question about Scented Candles and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • eye, nose, throat irritation
  • allergy symptoms
  • asthma attacks
  • respiratory distress

Possible long-term side effects

  • cancer risk (benzene, toluene)
  • chronic respiratory issues
  • neurological development interference (lead exposure)

Ingredients to be aware of

  • paraffin
  • synthetic fragrances
  • lead wicks
  • vocs
  • soot particles

Healthier alternatives

  • soy candles
  • beeswax candles
  • non-metal core wicks
  • natural essential oil fragrances

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Rachel Adams
Published on: 11-17-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Rachel Adams
Published on: 11-17-2023

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