Are Your Candles Slowly Killing You?

Scary Nun with candles

It's always nice to come home, get in your PJs, and relax while lighting a comforting scented candle. But although it may seem like the perfect way to end the day, it can be slowly taking your breath away in the meantime. Actually, there is a laundry list of issues that will ignite a ton of problems in your body.

Pollution in Your Air

Candles and jars

Although your candles make your home feel homey, they are releasing toxic fumes in the meantime. The same fumes found in a diesel engine actually, and they can be as dangerous as second-hand smoke at the end of the day. No bueno for real. Not to mention the allergies potentially involved. Clearly, you know if you're allergic to eugenol, cinnamic aldehyde, geraniol, or hydroxycitonellal, right? Not. How the heck would you even spell these words off the cuff let alone know how they interact with your body?

You know how everyone makes a gigantic deal about air pollution, and our cars are required to have smog checks? By burning candles nightly, you are essentially opening a Pandora's box of unregulated pollution in your own home. You don't want your kids to breathe in smog from a car or feel like you were hit by a truck, right? Dousing that flame is the best way to freshen up your air.

The Chemistry Behind the Wax

Skull with candles

Many candles are made from paraffin. "What is paraffin?" you may ask. We all know what petroleum is. Well, this wax is the waste product of the stuff that's deodorized. Yes, you are burning petroleum in your house for your kids to inhale on the regular (dun dun dun!).

Along with petroleum, the list of tasty ingredients, a.k.a. unwanted chemicals, your candles literally bring to your table are acetone, trichlorofluoromethane, carbon disulfide, 2-butanone, trichloroethane, trichloroethene, carbon tetrachloride, tetrachloroethene, chlorobenzene, ethylbenzene, styrene, xylene, phenol, cresol, and cyclopentene. Some of the toxins are found in other products, such as paint, lacquer, and varnish removers--check, please. Although they emit a comforting scent--it doesn't seem so comforting after all, huh?

Heavy Metals

No, not a quality classic rock band. Unfortunately, the wax isn't the only part of the candle that contains hazardous materials. Little did you know that the wick contains metals like lead on top of the cotton or string. This means more hazards and more worries for you and your kids.

In fact, the wick itself can cause lead poisoning. If you aren't familiar with this awful ailment, symptoms include constipation, seizures, vomiting, abdominal pain, and death. If you aren't shaking in your boots, you have nerves of absolute steel because this condition is no joke. This alone is a reason to put those candles out for good.

Endocrine Disrupters

Sadly, the health issues don't end there. In fact, your scented candles can be endocrine disrupters! This means your brain, nervous system, reproductive system, metabolism, blood sugar levels, ovaries, male reproductive system, thyroid, and adrenal glands can indeed be affected by these silent killers. That's a lot of risk for the single benefit of making your house smell good.

Essentially, your body is tricked into over-responding to the stimulus introduced. An example is telling your body to produce insulin when it isn't needed. Bad. So bad. Scented candles can even prevent your kids from growing into their bodies--literally, it affects growth hormones. Ditch 'em girl!

They'll Catch You Off Guard

Chances are, you will likely leave one burning when you aren't home the more you use candles. Actually, there is likely a time you came home to notice your seemingly harmless candle burning away while you went to get a workout in. You might even think it's a-ok to leave the flame burnin' if you step out quickly to run to the supermarket.

Just like love, all it takes is a spark to get the flames burning. A lit candle sitting next to some low-hanging drapes or atop of your next big presentation at work could be the demise of your home. Baby books, family photos, birth certificates, etc. can all be viciously torn away from you simply because you didn't take a second to blow out the flame. It's a serious thing to remain alerted while there are flames dancing in your home. Smokey the Bear advises against it too.

Suggested Solutions

So what's a candle lover to do? Try some of these ideas to safely enjoy candles as often as you please.

Oils That Are Essential

Essential oils are much more than a mere buzzword. They provide this wonderful thing called aromatherapy, which offers different types of healing depending on the scent. Also, they are only made from plant extracts, and here's the simple rule of thumb: stay away from the plants you know you're allergic to (obviously). So don't use an essential oil made from eucalyptus if you're allergic to the plant. Simple.

All you have to do is get an essential oil diffuser, fill it with water, and add a couple drops of the oil of your choosing. Voila! Your home smells delightful. Many great therapeutic scents to try are geranium, lavender, tea tree, peppermint, and lemongrass. You can also mix and match to create your own custom scents. Oh, and you can set your diffuser on a timer--in case you're one of those forgetful folks.

The Stovetop Method

If you're looking for a cheap method to get your scent on, you can easily boil up some water, fruits, herbs, and spices on your stovetop to get your senses tingling for a very small cost, no toxicity, and minimal prep/supervision required. These are called simmer pot recipes or stove top potpourri.

Think of this as DIY essential oils--without making any oil. A great scent to try is cinnamon apple spice. Add two cinnamon sticks, the peels of one apple and one orange, and one tablespoon of whole cloves. Fill your saucepan three-quarters full with water, add the ingredients, and bring to a boil. When reaching a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and let the scents flow! Keep an eye on water levels and remove from the heat when you leave home or go to bed.

Candles That Are the Bee's Knees

Beeswax candles

If you absolutely must have a flame in your home because your elemental sign is fire, candles made from beeswax don't pose the same threats as those made from paraffin (remember diesel engine fuel - yuck). Instead, beeswax candles emit negative ions, which actually help to purify your air.

They also smell divine and have many scents to choose from just like your more dangerous collection. The only drawback is the safety of the flame. Always be sure to keep the flame away from fabrics and paper, and, for the love of all things sacred, don't leave them burning without a babysitter. Out with the old and in the (much safer) new!

Faux Flames

Technically, you're not emitting much scent or any energy here (besides battery power), but they still bring a calming ambiance to bath, couch, or bedtime. Some of these flameless candles can bring a little scent to the table, but that would be best utilized in a smaller room. The main benefit here is the light that is strikingly similar to your scented candles collection. Some are even made of wax too.

You can get these unhazardous candles in all shapes, colors, and sizes, as well. Most importantly, leaving them on will do nothing besides draining a little battery life. There's no risk involved with them! Woohoo! If you really want to get creative, get your essential oils or simmer pot recipes fired up to create some fabulous scents along with the flameless ambiance.

You Shouldn't Start the Fire

The next time you want to soak in the comfort of scented candles, take a moment to evaluate the risks. Are your strawberry fields, mocha latte, or French macaroon scents really worth it? No. They aren't. Train your brain to not burn the wicks and find safer scents to fill your home with. Your family will thank you in the long run.

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Are Your Candles Slowly Killing You?