True Cellular Formulas Team - May 10, 2023
Understanding the Toxicity of Candles
Risks and Safe Alternatives
Candles have been used for centuries as a source of light and as a way to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Today, candles are still popular for their aesthetic appeal and ability to create a relaxing ambiance. However, recent studies have shown that candles can emit harmful chemicals that can affect our health. In this two-part article, we will explore the composition of candles, the specific chemicals found in candles, and the health risks associated with their use. We will also provide safe alternatives to toxic candles and tips for safe candle use.
Composition of Candles
Candles are made from a variety of materials, including paraffin wax, beeswax, soy wax, and other vegetable waxes. The wax is combined with a wick and sometimes fragrance oils and dyes to create a candle.
Paraffin wax is the most common type of wax used in candles. It is derived from petroleum, which is a nonrenewable resource. The production of paraffin wax involves the use of various chemicals, including solvents and bleaching agents, which can result in the release of harmful chemicals during burning. Fragrance oils and dyes are often added to candles to enhance their appeal. These additives can also emit harmful chemicals when burned, especially if they are synthetic.
Chemicals Found in Candles
Paraffin wax, the most common wax used in candles, is a petroleum byproduct. When paraffin wax is burned, it releases a range of harmful chemicals into the air, including toluene and benzene, both of which are known carcinogens. Lead wicks were commonly used in candles until they were banned in 2003 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Lead wicks can release lead into the air when burned, which can be harmful to our health.
Fragrance oils are often added to candles to enhance their appeal. Synthetic fragrance oils can contain harmful chemicals, including phthalates, which have been linked to a range of health problems, including reproductive issues and developmental problems. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are also released when candles are burned. VOCs can cause a range of health problems, including respiratory problems, headaches, and other health issues.
Health Risks of Candles
When candles are burned, they emit a variety of harmful chemicals that can negatively impact our health. The most significant risks associated with candle use include inhalation of toxic chemicals, air pollution, and fire hazards.
Inhaling toxic chemicals is one of the most significant risks associated with burning candles. Paraffin wax, when burned, releases a range of harmful chemicals, including benzene and toluene, both of which are known carcinogens. Fragrance oils can also contain harmful chemicals, including phthalates, which have been linked to a range of health problems.
Air pollution is another significant risk associated with candle use. Burning candles can release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, which can affect indoor air quality. Inhaling VOCs can cause respiratory problems, headaches, and other health issues.
Fire hazards are also a risk associated with candle use. If candles are left unattended or placed near flammable objects, they can pose a significant fire hazard.
Health Effects of Candle Toxicity
Exposure to the chemicals found in candles can have a range of negative health effects. The most significant health risks associated with candle use include respiratory problems, allergies and skin irritation, increased cancer risk, and other health risks.
Inhaling the chemicals released by burning candles can cause respiratory problems, including asthma attacks, bronchitis, and other respiratory illnesses. Exposure to VOCs can also cause headaches, dizziness, and other health issues.
In addition to respiratory problems, exposure to the chemicals found in candles can also cause allergies and skin irritation. Fragrance oils and other additives in candles can cause allergic reactions in some people, and contact with melted wax can cause skin irritation.
Long-term exposure to the chemicals found in candles can also increase the risk of cancer. Some of the chemicals found in candles, such as benzene and toluene, are known carcinogens and can increase the risk of developing cancer over time.
Safe Alternatives to Toxic Candles
If you love the ambiance of burning candles, but are concerned about the health risks associated with traditional candles, there are several safe alternatives to consider.
Beeswax candles are a great alternative to traditional candles. Beeswax is a natural, renewable resource that is free from harmful chemicals. Beeswax candles also burn cleanly, without releasing harmful chemicals into the air.
Soy candles are a better alternative to traditional candles but still have problems. Soy wax is derived from soybeans, which is a natural and renewable resource. However, most of the world's soy is genetically modified, which is concerning. Additionally, soy wax requires processing to turn it into a wax form suitable for use in candles. The soybean oil must be hydrogenated, a process that involves the use of high heat and hydrogen gas, to create the solid form of soy wax. This heavy processing means that soy wax is not a truly natural wax and that it can still contain harmful chemicals.
Himalayan salt lamps are also a popular alternative to traditional candles. Himalayan salt lamps are made from natural salt crystals and emit a warm, relaxing glow when lit. They are also believed to have air-purifying properties, which can help improve indoor air quality.
Tips for Safe Candle Use
If you choose to burn traditional candles, there are several safety tips to keep in mind:
- Always burn candles in a well-ventilated room.
- Keep candles away from flammable objects, such as curtains, bedding, and furniture.
- Never leave candles unattended while they are burning.
- Always trim the wick before lighting a candle to prevent excessive soot and smoke.
- Use a candle snuffer to extinguish candles rather than blowing them out.
Candles can add warmth and ambiance to any space, but it's important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with burning traditional candles. Paraffin wax and synthetic fragrance oils can emit harmful chemicals when burned, which can negatively impact our health. By choosing safe alternatives, such as beeswax candles, soy candles, or Himalayan salt lamps, and practicing safe candle use, you can enjoy the ambiance of candles without the health risks.
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- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Ban of lead-containing candle wicks; final rule. Federal Register. 2003;68(167):52111-52114. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2003-08-29/pdf/03-21736.pdf. Accessed April 26, 2023.
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