How burning candles can destroy your health

Fall seems to be the perfect time get out those scented candles and stock up on new ones. Apple pie, pumpkin spice, and evergreen are some of popular choices — year round, really. But some of the results from recent studies have given us pause about scented decor. I used to LOVE all of my candles. I had my top favorites from the popular candle stores and several for each season. Lemon and floral ones for spring, fresh and airy ones for summer, warm cinnnamon and orange for fall and pine for winter. There’s just something welcoming about having a fragrance in our home.

My questioning started when I read an article by John Naish of the Daily Mail – the reporter said he found evidence to suggest that scented candles could actually make us quite sick. And it’s not just candles; “aerosols, plug-ins, gels, and incense sticks” are also troubling.

The fear lies in the chemicals that can be found in the fragrance, wicks and wax. While more research certainly needs to be done to make a truly definitive statement, some researchers feel that extended, long-term use of certain scented items might lead to asthma, lung damage, or — in extreme cases — even cancer.

One of the main problems with scented candles is the scent itself. According to Anne Steinemann, an environmental pollutants expert who is a professor of civil engineering and the chair of sustainable cities at the University of Melbourne, certain candles may emit numerous types of potentially hazardous chemicals, such as benzene and toluene. They can cause damage to the brain, lung and central nervous system, as well as cause developmental difficulties.

2009 study out of South Carolina State University also warns about chemicals emitted into the air upon burning candles. The researchers found that burning paraffin candles produced “undesired chemicals”.

I did some more research to inspect the claims further: For instance, researchers have cautioned that burning candles could cause indoor air pollution. A 2001 EPA study shows that candles with more fragrance in them produce more soot, and the agency suggests choosing unscented candles to reduce this leftover debris. The study also nods to possible organic compounds in candles that might be linked to increase cancer risk, but they report that currently the information is inconclusive.

“I have heard from numerous people who have asthma that they can’t even go into a store if the store sells scented candles, even if they aren’t being burned,” Steinemann added. “They emit so much fragrance that they can trigger asthma attacks and even migraines.”

“For a person who lights a candle every day for years or just uses them frequently, inhalation of these dangerous pollutants drifting in the air could contribute to the development of health risks like cancer, common allergies and even asthma,” saidlead researcher and chemistry professor Dr. Ruhullah Massoudi.

There are other researchers who also worry about the long-term affects of using air fresheners. For instance, Public Health England’s Center for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards found that these fresheners can contain “considerable levels of formaldehyde” — but they also report that there’s “not a public health concern under normal ventilation conditions or product use.”  But what about all those candles being burned inside the home during the cooler months when our doors and windows are closed? 

The research continues to pile up: In 2014, Scientific American reported that a a study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives shows a strong (though not totally definitive) link between exposure to phthalates (chemicals that are found in air fresheners and often plastics) during pregnancy and the child’s future risk of asthma. 

“Phthalates are known to impede the endocrine system, the regulatory mechanism that dictates hormonal distribution in the body,” Scientific American reports. “The chemicals’ disruptive prowess have been linked to health problems including birth defects, cancers and diabetes. Yet until now there has been no data to suggest they were also harming children’s respiratory systems.”

I still wanted the aroma of each season and the ability to have different scents in my home, but I needed to find something that was going to make my family (pets included) sick. Plus, having four kids and three dogs at home – candles aren’t exactly safe. Neither are wax burners. So I started using an essential oil diffuser. And guess what? It’s way better than I expected. Not only can I fill my home with amazing freshness, it’s not harming our health and in fact, in many ways, it’s improving it instead. AND to make it even better, I can choose exactly what I want the smell to be each day (or multiple times a day) depending on my mood without having to go buy a new candle. I can create my own blend of scents – some are energizing and some are relaxing. I love mixing together all different essential oils to create the perfect blend.

If you are ready to make the switch and ditch those toxic candles, I’d love to help you out. In fact, if you get your own essential oil diffuser and starter kit, I’ll send you a book with all kinds of diffuser recipes to try out. It’s a win-win. You are improving your health AND still get to enjoy the scents of every season. Plus, as soon as you purchase the starter kit (this is how I got started and most people do) – you’ll receive 24% off all future purchases so you can get more oils to try out, different diffusers and access to tons of other toxin-free household items. Seriously, it’s an awesome deal. Find out more here.

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