'Tis the season of scented candles and lots of candle gift-giving! I know how comforting it might seem to walk into a home and smell the warming scent of vanilla or "clean laundry" burning from a candle, but sadly, these pretty little torches are actually more harmful than you might have ever thought.
Unfortunately, we've become conditioned in society to always need to make things smell good, as evidenced by all the scents in everything from soaps, shampoo, dryer sheets, dish wash soap, perfume – it's really everywhere! But the more you detox these toxins from your home, personal care products and go scent-free in your life, the more you will discover you really don't need scents at all. The smell of "nothing" will have never smelled so good.
The Problem With Conventional Scented Candles:
Breathing in the scent of a candle might seem like a harmless act, but it actually comes with a ton of health consequences.
Prime example: conventional scented candles release chemicals that are deemed to be just as dangerous as second-hand smoke!
Not to mention, the toxins that are released from these candles are similar in nature to those that are found in diesel fumes, such as: acetone, trichlorofluoromethane, carbon disulfide, 2-butanone, trichloroethane, trichloroethene, carbon tetrachloride, tetrachloroethene, chlorobenzene, ethylbenzene, styrene, xylene, phenol, cresol and cyclopentene. It's no surprise that they are a huge contributor to indoor air pollution!
You might be thinking that these chemicals are not getting in your bloodstream. Think again, because when you breathe in a scent, these toxins reach the lungs and get absorbed into the bloodstream.
If you're confused right now after thinking candles were nothing more than a glass jar of wax and a bit of fragrance, let me clear some of this up for you by exploring what goes into the making of conventional scented candles.
Harmful Ingredients in Scented Candles
Paraffin is a flammable, soft, colourless, waxy solid derived from petroleum. But before it can be made into wax, it must be deodorized and chemically bleached. To put that into perspective, your household bleach at full strength is about 10% but to make paraffin wax, the bleach is at 100%, only adding to the chemical cocktail of toxins that candles already contain.
The dioxins from bleach have been shown to contribute to reproductive and developmental issues, as well as causing damage to the immune system. Also when paraffin wax is burned, it releases toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including benzene and toluene which are known carcinogens.
Synthetic Fragrance (and Dyes)
I remember when I used to really enjoy the smell of scented candles. It didn't bother me. But now that I've gone completely scent/fragrance-free with my personal care products, house cleaning products and even perfume ( this is why I don't wear it ), I can't stand the smell of any strong fragrance/parfum-derived scents without getting a splitting headache! Once you read what you're about to read, it might actually makes sense why.
Synthetic fragrances, used in the making of candles, can contain anywhere from 3000-5000 different chemicals, many of which haven't been tested to ensure they're safe for humans. Both synthetic fragrance and dyes are also known to release dangerous VOCs such as formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, alcohol and esters. Each of these chemicals have been known to result in headaches, dizziness, allergy symptoms, asthma attacks, respiratory tract infections and cancer.
In the past, lead was commonly used in wicks until it was found that it could result in unsafe levels of airborne heavy metals and a lead poisoning risk to young children, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the manufacture and sale of all lead-core wick candles. Now you'll see either zinc and tin wicks being used but even they can release trace amounts of heavy metals into the air when they're burned.
While I'm not covering it today, please note that similar harmful effects would apply to things like air fresheners, whether it's in cars, a wall plug-in or a bathroom/room spray.
What Can We Do Instead?
Can you still enjoy the sweet scent and ambience of candles without it harming your health? Yes, absolutely! It just comes down to being a bit more mindful when making your purchases and avoiding any that contain any of the above mentioned ingredients. Here's what you can do instead if you still want to capture the scent and ambience of having candles in your home:
Bonus about beeswax candles: they are actually known to be airpurifiers and can also help to alleviate allergies and asthma!
But also, I think it's worth noting that you don't need to add scents into your home, even if they are natural. Open up your windows, let in the fresh air! This isn't only a great way to release toxic chemicals from your home and freshen up the room, but it's also a great way to support your microbiome which I will be talking about more on the blog in the upcoming months!
Here's to being scent-free friends!