You Breathe What You Burn: Are Candles Bad For Me? (The REAL Story)

You Breathe What You Burn: Are Candles Bad For Me? (The REAL Story)

Ever feel like every week theres a new health scare... ("you should NEVER consume this xyz product!!")? If you want to geek out with me over studies and data, read on!

You may have heard that candles are bad for air quality, that they release toxic chemicals and particulates into the air. But who is making these claims? and how is that data being presented? One article stated that "(candles) release carcinogenic toxins (benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein and) most recognizable, soot into the air. The emissions from paraffin candles contain many of the same toxins produced by burning diesel fuel." 

Another site claims "Unfortunately, all candles have the potential to negatively impact indoor air quality over time—especially candles made with synthetic fragrance oils and paraffin wax."

These two excerpts are from the top 2 Google search results for "candle air quality." But something smells fishy- both these websites are selling home duct cleaning services- they want you to believe that your heating and AC ducts are polluted with dangerous chemicals that need to be removed. No actual studies or concrete data is given to support these claims. 

Another article shows another side of the coin- 

"while some potentially cancer-causing chemicals, like benzene and formaldehyde, were produced, the highest measured levels after four hours of continuous burning were less than half as high as the recommended indoor air-quality limits set by the World Health Organization- falling within the range of what is considered typical indoor air concentrations."

"When candles burn, they release chemicals in “relatively trivial concentrations,” said Pamela Dalton, an odor perception and irritation researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. People who walk out onto a busy city street will inhale higher levels of potentially toxic chemicals just from car exhaust, she said." (NY Times)

But these studies were conducted by researchers affiliated with the candle industry, so where does that leave us?

My personal take is that either way, we just want to feel like we're making good decisions. We can choose to opt for the safer of two options, like plant-based wax instead of paraffin, certified non-toxic fragrances, wooden wicks instead of zinc-cored cotton wicks... but sometimes we (even me!) just want to buy an $8 candle at TJ Maxx and that's ok too! I never want to scare somebody into buying an Engima Candle because those other ones are bad. The health risks of that clearance aisle candle are probably less than walking next to a busy highway, so let's all just feel a little less guilty about finding a little joy where we can. 

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