What are those pretty candles (even soy ones!) really doing to your health?
It was only a few short years ago that you would find my home filled with candles. Especially those cute glass ones with a lid... The promise to make my home smell like a delicious French Pear or Vanilla Bean was just too irresistible!!!
Candles give such a warm cosy glow that made me feel relaxed and chill. Now with the popularity of a Hygge home environment, candles are more popular than ever. Thankfully I now have an even better alternative to make me feel the same way without the risks to my health.
So what’s wrong with a seemingly innocent little candle? Well, there’s a few worrying things like lead wicks, GM soy, petroleum derived paraffin and synthetic fragrances used to create those exotic scents. Not to mention the risk of fire!
But let’s take a look at the most obvious thing first. The actual smoke from the candle! Apparently, the smoke from a burning candle could be as toxic as those from cigarettes or even diesel exhaust fumes. Yikes!
The health impact of candle smoke
A study by scientists at Copenhagen University conducted on mice found exposure to particles from burning candles to cause greater damage than the same dose of diesel exhaust fumes. The harmful effects of candle smoke included lung inflammation and toxicity, arteriosclerosis, and ageing effects on chromosomes in the lungs and spleen.
Ultimately, this all leads to an increase in particulate air pollution (specifically, indoor air pollution). In Denmark (where candle usage is high), research has shown that 60 percent of ultra-fine particles in Danish homes come from burning candles. According to the Danish Lung Association, Danes burn on average 3.5 kg of candles every year!
We don’t have statistics for how often Australians burn candles but that doesn’t change the potential health risks that could come as a result of candle smoke inhalation. And the concern isn’t necessarily new. A 2009 study by U.S. researchers found that paraffin-based candles release carcinogens and chemicals that could raise the risk of asthma.
Dr. Amid Hamidi from the University of South Carolina, who led the study, says the results showed paraffin-based candles produce several chemicals, mainly because they do not burn at a high enough temperature to destroy the hazardous molecules they emit, reports the Daily Mail.
Additional research from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finds scented candles to produce more soot than unscented, the particles of which can infiltrate deep into your lungs and be harmful to your respiratory system. And the wick matters, too. A longer candle wick will produce more soot and a smoky flame, which releases even more air pollution. So yes, candle smoke is bad for you and your lungs.1
A few years ago this image below was circulating of a baby with black dots in its nose (caused by soot from candles). You can read more about that here.
But aren’t Soy based candles natural and safe?
Soy candles may seem like a safer choice to paraffin candles however, the term “pure” on a label means only 51% of an ingredient (and that goes for food, too). Companies sell both “pure” beeswax candles and “pure” soy candles, which contain a combination of 51% beeswax/soy wax and 49% toxic paraffin. Look for the key phrase “100% Pure Beeswax” or “100% Soy” on candles.
Even a 100% soy wax candle must be processed with a small amount of paraffin. Potentially, burning a 100% soy candle will release small amounts of the carcinogens and toxins found in paraffin. Again, most soy candles on the market are not 100% soy, and contain a high percentage of poisonous paraffin.
How about the pretty smells in those “safe” soy candles?
Many soy candles contain the same poisonous dyes and fragrances added to paraffin candles. (Granted, some low quality beeswax candles are dyed and fragranced, too, and they do not offer the healing benefits of 100% pure beeswax candles.)
What's so wrong with "Fragrance" or "Parfum"?
Here are a number of reasons why anything with "Fragrance" or "Parfum" listed in it needs to be avoided like the plague!
- Fragrances are linked to a staggering number of health risks. Across multiple research studies, chemicals used to make fragrances are classified as allergens, hormone disruptors, asthma triggers, neurotoxins & carcinogens. The punchline: fragrances are highly toxic.
- Fragrances commonly contain phthalates, which are chemicals that help the scents last longer. Health risks for phthalates are startling and include cancer, human reproductive and developmental toxicity, endocrine disruption, birth defects & respiratory problems. These toxic villains are very hard to avoid because manufacturers are not required to list them on ingredient labels.
- Fragrance chemicals, like other toxic chemicals, can pass from the skin and into the blood.
- Manufacturers are not required to list their fragrance ingredients on product labels. Often only one word, “fragrance”, is used on the label and can hide a cocktail of more than 100 toxic ingredients. This is because fragrances are considered to be “trade secrets”.
- The fragrance industry regulates itself, so that safety testing does not have to be confirmed by regulators before products are sold to consumers.
- So called “natural fragrances” can be just as toxic as synthetic fragrances.2
But my soy candle is fragranced with essential oils. Isn’t that safe??
Nope! Essential oils are not safe options for candle fragrances. A soy or beeswax candle scented with essential oils will release toxins, since combustion changes the molecular structure of these oils.
Soy candles pose serious environmental concerns
More than 90% of soy is genetically modified! GM soy crops are heavily sprayed with toxic pesticides, causing harm to both the harvesters and the soil. So if you are buying soy candles, chances are you are supporting the production of GMO’s–which devastate our environment and our health.
So candles are out.... What’s a good alternative?
100% pure beeswax candles require no added fragrances or dyes, because the pollen and honey content of the wax offer a natural orange colour and light, sweet fragrance. I have a few beeswax candles on standby in case of a power outage and a couple in my beautiful crystal candlestick holders.
But my favourite alternative to candles is an essential oil diffuser. Once I bought my first diffuser and started to understand how better it was for my health to diffuse essential oils instead of burning a candle, those candles were ditched quick smart!
Why essential oils? They're made from plants, not in lab with artificial ingredients (well, not the good essential oils anyway!). Now I don't buy my diffuser and essential oils just anywhere... quality really makes a difference. Trust me, I've tried just buying in the health food store and online and was really disappointed when I found out most them had artificial scents and fillers. This is the only brand of diffusers and essential oils I use.
The other cool thing? It's actually cheaper over time to use a diffuser and essential oils than a scented candle. My diffuser goes for 8-10 hours and I only need about 6-8 drops of essential oil in the diffuser each time. While the diffuser and oils have a bit more upfront cost I'd be saving HUGE in the long run and can use the essential oils for immune support, digestion, sleep, cleaning... so much more than just a scent like the candle. This starter set has 12 essential oils and a diffuser for about the cost of 10 luxe candles... but if I use 10 drops of oil each time in the diffuser that's 100 days of use for 8-10 hours each day.
Ready to dive into your journey to non-toxic scents with essential oils? Learn more in this on-demand class.
Interested in learning more about what living a low tox life looks like and be supported by others doing the same? Join our free Facebook group, Reset + Rejuv Your Health.
1 extract from blog on https://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/health/news-candle-smoke-could-be-as-toxic-as-cigarettes/
2 extract from blog on https://www.forceofnatureclean.com/truth-about-toxic-fragrances/