My partner and I love to burn candles. Not only do we enjoy the smell of them, but we also appreciate the ambience that they create. That’s why we were so upset when we learned that the majority of candles we had been burning up until that point, completely unbeknownst to us, were releasing a variety of potentially hazardous chemicals!
The most frustrating thing about all of this, was that none of these candles had any type of warning label pertaining to this. Not only that, but most of them didn’t even list the ingredients!
According to Anne Steinemann, an environmental pollutants expert, certain candles might emit several different unsafe chemicals, which can potentially cause damage to the brain, lung and central nervous system, and could also cause developmental difficulties. (In fact, many of the toxins released from paraffin candles are the same as those found in diesel fuel fumes.)
Steinemann goes on to say that for some people, the effects of burning certain candles are “immediate, acute and severe,” while others might not experience symptoms until many years later. (Source)
In an experiment done at South Carolina State University, several different types of candles from different manufacturers were left to burn for up to six hours in a small enclosed box. Afterwards, the substances released into the air were collected and analyzed. The experiment concluded that Paraffin-based candles, which are the most popular and widely used candles, emitted alkans, alkenes and toluene, which is a known carcinogen.
The researchers concluded that lighting paraffin candles causes several chemicals to be released into the air. They also went on to say that people who light these types of candles frequently could be at risk of developing common allergies, asthma, and in rare cases, potentially even cancer. This is most likely related to the fact that paraffin candles are by-products of oil refineries. (Source)
While this might be alarming to hear, I do honestly believe that the occasional candle enthusiast has nothing to fear. If you are only lighting a candle once or twice a month, then it is unlikely that you will experience any of these extreme symptoms. Still though, I would not recommend using paraffin-based candles at all if it can be avoided. They might be less expensive, but if you don’t use them frequently, it won’t add up too significantly. And if you DO use them frequently, then you might be putting the health of you and your loved ones at risk.