By Sara El Halabi J.

Scented candles have gained an exaggerated buzz over the last few decades. People use them to perfume their houses, workplaces and worship spaces, especially during festive dates. Yet, many ignore or may be ignorant to the fact that while enhancing their environments, these candles may be harming their health.

When you burn perfumed candles without knowing their components, you release chemicals which your lungs and skin will absorb.

I am sorry to tell you this painful truth. But let me explain why you are endangering your health and might want to get rid of your beloved candles at once.

The Venom Inside Your Scented Candles

First of all, let’s examine what candles contain. Most candles on the market are made of paraffin wax, which comes from bleached petroleum waste. When burned, it effuses highly toxic and carcinogenic components, like benzene and toluene. You are inhaling potent toxins similar to the diesel fuel fumes every time you light these candles!

Another concern is the candle wicks. Instead of cotton or paper, some brands still make their wicks using lead, although its use is restricted since the 1970s.

When you light a lead wick, it releases five times more lead toxins than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pollution standard for indoors and making it extremely harmful for children and pets.

Fragrances That Kill You Slowly

Unfortunately, your favourite candles can be killing you slowly with their scent. That exquisite fragrance that you love so much is mostly of dubious origins.

When you read the word “perfume” in the ingredients section, understand that it covers up a variety of components and fragrances that may not be approved for candles. Candlemakers still include toxic substances, which they cannot mention explicitly in the tags. This also happens with air fresheners, so watch out for them.

Artificial or generic fragrances release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) when burned. Among the most common VOCs these types of candles release are a) Formaldehyde, which can increase your cancer risk, and b) Phthalate, which enters the bloodstream almost as soon as you inhale it.

These substances can stick to your respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine and nervous systems and damage your organs slowly as time goes by. Thus, they can aggravate allergies and asthma and cause hormonal alterations.

Symptoms And Effects of Scented Candles

Let’s now take a look at the most common effects and simple symptoms you might begin to have if you light these candles daily or at least most days of the week:

  • Runny nose
  • Headaches
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Black deposits inside your nostrils
  • Sinus blockage
  • Skin impurities accumulation—which can cause acne with time.
  • Cancer and hormonal disorders (not wholly proven, though)

Not very pleasant, eh?!

Cleaner Candle Alternatives

The solution is obvious. The first thing you need to do is drop your generic scented candles. It will hurt a bit at first, but it is for your sake and your family’s.

However, all is not lost as you have some choices and solutions if you want to still use them from time to time.

  • Promise yourself you will buy clean, sustainable candles. The best options are produced from beeswax, soy wax, coconut oil or other plant-based materials.
  • Make sure the wick is made of pure cotton or paper—no lead wicks.
  • Trim the wick if it is longer than 10 millimetres.
  • Do not blow out your candle. Instead, use a candle snuffer or dip it in the wax.
  • Burn them in well-ventilated rooms, or at least ventilate the room for a few minutes after you extinguish your candle.
  • Keep your lit candle away from draft areas to avoid the flame from moving and releasing smoke.
  • Sorry for this one, but purchase unscented candles and save yourself from the masked harmful fragrances. Alternatively, ensure any fragrances used are pure, organic and of high quality. If you want to aromatise your environment, use essential oils, which can have more benefits than disadvantages. Of course, you must also make sure they are organic essential oils. Likewise, you can place roses or eucalyptus in your place or burn dried herbs, such as lavender, which provides a magical and fresh scent.
  • Do not burn any candle that has metal or a wire in it.

By opting for homemade and sustainable candles that state they have a lead-free wick, a regulation implemented in the UK since 2003, you are protecting your wellbeing and the environment. You will also be supporting environment-conscious candle manufacturers and a greener lifestyle. You can even purchase kits to make your own!

I was also disheartened when I had to get rid of my scented candles. Still, I was more disappointed to know how harmful they were and that we were victims of the ill-intentioned generic candle industry. Going green with candles and how I now aromatise my house has been an eye-opening and encouraging experience. Believe me, you will always want to protect your health and family.