When the weather starts getting colder and the holidays are just around the corner, many people want to bring out their beloved scented candles and seasonal air fresheners. The classic scents like pumpkin spice, apple cider, and pine are just a few of the most popular, but a few recent studies have shown that scented candles are not completely safe.
A report from the Daily Mail by John Naish claims that evidence exists that points to the idea that scented candles have the potential to cause disease. The article goes on to say that candles aren’t the only culprit, but that gels, incense sticks, aerosol air fresheners, and plug-ins are all potential risks.
The possibility for danger is found in chemicals that make up the wax and fragrance. It is still the early stage of this research, so more testing is required before solid claims can be made, but it is already widely agreed upon by many researchers that asthma, lung damage, and even cancer can develop as a result of long-term scented candle or artificial fragrance use.
Further digging shows that this issue has been at least partially known about for quite some time. In 2001, the EPA conducted a study that showed how candles with high levels of fragrance produce more ash, which in turn pollutes the air in your home. Unscented candles don’t have this problem. It’s also possible, according to the same study, that the increased risk of cancer associated with scented candles might be due to organic compounds in the fragrances. However, that study found the link to have inconclusive evidence at the time.
In 2009, South Carolina State University conducted a similar study on burning scented candles. Researchers at the school discovered that candles containing paraffin, which is the basic ingredient in most candle waxes, would produce undesirable compounds when burned, including toluene, alkans, and alkenes. These are all potentially harmful to the human body.
Of course, not everyone agrees with claims by scientists like those at SCSU. The National Candle Association claimed that the study conducted by the school was intentionally misleading, and that the study was meant to have a predetermined outcome based on its title, ‘Soybean Candles for Healthy Life and Well-Being.’ According to the NCA, the professor in charge of the study came up with a conclusion to the study before it even started. They claim there is no unbiased research that shows soy-based candles are any healthier than petroleum-based candles, despite the research from SCSU. They go on to accuse the study of being conducted purely to promote consumer purchases of soy-based candles by exaggerating unproven negatives associated with petroleum-based candles.
Of course, other research has been conducted on candles and air fresheners as well. The Center for Radiation, Chemical, and Environmental Hazards within Public Health England found that air fresheners might contain formaldehyde, but they go on to say the levels aren’t of any concern when used with normal ventilation.
Another study conducted in 2014 showed a link between chemicals in air fresheners called phthalates and the development of asthma in children whose mothers were exposed to the chemical. While the link is strong, it has not been completely proven.
According to Scientific American, phthalates have the potential to diminish the efficiency of the endocrine system, which helps the body distribute and develop hormones. Several health issues have been linked to phthalates, including diabetes, certain cancers, and birth defects.
In order to find the true danger of these substances, more research is needed. It might not be necessary to immediately throw out all your scented candles, but pay attention to the research behind them in the future.