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  • Writer's pictureINSPECTION PROS

Scented Candles: A Hidden Hazard to Indoor Air Quality

The Hidden Dangers of Scented Candle

However, their impact on indoor air quality and consequently on health can be significant and often overlooked.

This comprehensive article explores why scented candles may not be as benign as they seem, especially concerning indoor air quality.

Consider using candles sparingly and only when necessary to enhance ambiance.
Limiting the use of scented candles, particularly in small, unventilated spaces, can reduce exposure to harmful emissions.

Understanding Scented Candles

Scented candles are typically made from paraffin wax, a byproduct of petroleum refining. These candles can also include stearic acid (to harden the wax), fragrances, and dyes. When lit, the simple act of burning a candle causes combustion, which releases various chemicals into the air, including some that are potentially harmful.

Alongside formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, acrolein contributes to a range of health problems, particularly affecting the lungs and respiratory system.
Acrolein is a significant concern due to its high toxicity and potential formation when burning scented candles.

Chemical Emissions from Scented Candles

1. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Scented candles release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Some VOCs associated with candle burning include formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, toluene, and benzene. These compounds can have various adverse effects on health, ranging from eye, nose, and throat irritation to more severe impacts like respiratory diseases and even cancer with long-term exposure.


2. Particulate Matter

Candles also emit particulate matter (PM), particularly PM2.5, which refers to particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers. These fine particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing respiratory and cardiovascular issues, and exacerbating conditions like asthma and bronchitis.


3. Acrolein, Formaldehyde, and Acetaldehyde

Acrolein is a significant concern due to its high toxicity and potential formation when burning scented candles. Alongside formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, acrolein contributes to a range of health problems, particularly affecting the lungs and respiratory system.


4. Soot

Soot is another byproduct of burning scented candles, which can stain walls and furnishings and contribute to respiratory problems. Soot particles are tiny enough to be inhaled deeply into the lungs and pose health risks similar to those associated with PM2.5.


Hidden Hazard to Indoor Air Quality

1. Respiratory Problems

Individuals with asthma or other respiratory conditions may notice their symptoms worsening in environments where scented candles are used frequently. The particulates and chemicals can irritate the airways, leading to increased coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness.

2. Allergic Reactions


Chemicals like benzene and toluene can trigger allergic reactions and aggravate conditions such as eczema or contact dermatitis. Even those without pre-existing allergies might experience allergy-like symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, or skin irritation.


3. Neurological Effects

Prolonged exposure to certain VOCs, such as benzene and toluene, can affect the central nervous system, leading to symptoms like headache, nausea, and dizziness. In severe cases, extended exposure could potentially contribute to neurological damage.


4. Carcinogenic Risk

The presence of known carcinogens like benzene and formaldehyde raises concerns about the long-term cancer risk associated with regular indoor use of scented candles.


Mitigating the Risks

While it’s clear that scented candles can adversely affect indoor air quality, there are several ways to mitigate these risks:


1. Ventilation

Improving ventilation in areas where candles are burned can significantly reduce the concentration of harmful particles and gases in the air. Opening windows or using exhaust fans can help disperse pollutants more effectively.


2. Reduced Use

Limiting the use of scented candles, particularly in small, unventilated spaces, can reduce exposure to harmful emissions. Consider using candles sparingly and only when necessary to enhance ambiance.


3. Alternative Products

Opt for candles made from natural waxes like soy or beeswax, which burn cleaner than paraffin wax and are less likely to produce harmful emissions. Additionally, non-combustion-based alternatives, such as electric diffusers or wax warmers, can offer similar sensory benefits without the associated risks of burning.


4. Choosing Unscented and Dye-Free Candles

Unscented and dye-free candles tend to release fewer pollutants, reducing the risk to indoor air quality when used.


Conclusion

While scented candles can enrich our living spaces with delightful fragrances and soft light, their impact on indoor air quality and health cannot be ignored. By understanding the potential hazards and taking steps to minimize exposure, it is possible to enjoy the benefits of candles more safely. As research continues to delve into the implications of scented candle use, consumers can make more informed choices about the products they bring into their homes, ensuring a healthier indoor environment.



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