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Bouquet of toxins: Are scented candles bad for you?

Candles work by vaporizing a liquid for its users to breathe in. When the wick (string at the core of the candle) is lit, it heats up the wax, melting it. This hot, melted wax then vaporizes and is diffused into the air around it, creating the pleasant smells we’ve all come to enjoy during the holiday season. However, while scented candles help contribute to the perfect homey ambiance, they’re less than ideal for your home’s atmosphere.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)


You know that amazing smell that fills a room when you light a scented candle? Those are VOCs. As their name implies, VOCs are organic compounds that vaporize easily, such as the vapors released when burning gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. When scented candles are burned, toxic and hazardous compounds are released into the air. Some of these chemicals are carcinogenic or react with ozone in the ambient air to create secondary pollutants like formaldehyde. Even candles labeled as “green”, “natural”, or “organic” emit these dangerous VOCs. While the effects of inhaling VOCs aren’t immediate or dramatic, over time they can lead to health complications such as cancer or organ failure. They can also exacerbate allergies, asthma, and headaches.



As the saying goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. Well, the opposite is also true. Even though you may not equate that tiny flame burning atop your pumpkin-spice candle to the types of out-of-control blazes we typically associate with smoke and pollution, it works the same way and emits many of the same hazardous particles. As the flame works its way down the wick, it converts that cotton string into carbon dioxide and soot. These small soot particles are microscopic and can penetrate deep into your lungs, causing difficulty breathing and potentially leading to lung cancer.  


What you can do about it
With their fragrant aroma and soft glow, giving up scented candles entirely may not be realistic for some of you. For those who still want the benefits of scented candles while foregoing most of the negatives, there are several alternatives for you to consider. For instance, if you absolutely cannot give up your scented candle fix, beeswax and soy candles release less soot than their paraffin (petroleum-based) counterparts. If you primarily use candles for their warm glow, another good option is electric candles. They may not be as fragrant as their burning counterparts, but they also won’t pollute your household air. 
 I’m sure you’re wondering if scented oil diffusers or air fresheners would make good substitutes. Fact is, they work in a similar manner to candles and release VOCs into the air. Generally, products that have strong scents also release VOCs, whether they’re synthetic or natural. This means even basic air fresheners, like fresh flowers and potpourri, generate some dangerous compounds. That being said, you don’t have to live out the rest of your life in a sterile, scent-free bubble to stay healthy. While long-term exposure to VOCs can be harmful, the occasional candle or bouquet won’t give you lung cancer just as getting a sunburn won’t immediately condemn you to getting skin cancer. The key is moderation. Avoid using synthetic and petroleum-based fresheners and make sure you use them in well-ventilated areas to allow the chemicals to dissipate. 
To ensure the VOC concentration in your home always remains at a healthy level, consider using an air quality system like the Wynd Halo and Home Purifier to detect and remove these pollutants from your environment. With everyone spending so much time indoors this time of year, it’s important to keep your air clean and fresh. So, snuggle up, grab a blanket, pour yourself a hot cup of cocoa, and maybe grab a few electric candles for your cozy evening-in this holiday season. 



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