How Do Candles Affect Home Air Quality?

Candle products form a multi-billion-dollar industry. There are few things more soothing than lighting up some lemon verbena and letting it take over your whole house. But before you spark that wick, hit the pause button, because candles might be affecting the air quality in your home.

How Do Candles Affect the Quality of the Air?

To better understand why candles can be dangerous for air quality, it helps to know what they’re made of.

Most candles are made from paraffin wax. Paraffin comes from petroleum, which means that it’s a byproduct of crude oil. And therein lies the problem.

When you burn paraffin wax, it creates benzene and toluene, which are toxic. In fact, both are known carcinogens, meaning they’re capable of causing cancer. These toxins are actually the same as those found in diesel fuel fumes.

And that’s not all that’s lurking in your candles. While the label won’t go into any details on the fragrance, that component can also contain undisclosed synthetic chemicals — some of which have possibly been linked to reproductive and endocrine disruption (like phthalates), along with triggering allergies. Candles can even release other carcinogenic elements like formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Even the wick can pose a risk. Lead wicks were banned from the US starting in 2003. However, that’s not the case for every country. So, if your candles come from someplace else, you might not be getting the same assurance.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re burning a candle with a lead wick in your home, it can cause the lead concentration to go above what the EPA considers safe. So, every time you strike a match and light a candle, the smoke — and everything it’s carrying — pollutes the air you breathe. It’s bad enough for a grown adult that’s generally healthy. Imagine what it can do to someone with health problems, children, the elderly, and your pets.

How to Enjoy Candles *and* Keep the Air Clean

Now that you know about how candles can affect home air quality, what can you do about it? Thankfully, you don’t have to give up your favorite scents! There are two things, in particular, you can do.

First, you can opt for candles not made with paraffin and other toxic chemicals. Common alternatives include:

  1. Beeswax candles.
  2. Soy candles.
  3. Fragrances that are plant-based or made using essential oils.
  4. Candles using wicks made from cotton or paper.

We love beeswax candles because they’re natural and non-toxic, but you don’t have to sacrifice quality. They burn slowly and evenly and won’t produce smoke or soot. As opposed to introducing toxins into the air you breathe, beeswax candles can actually help to clean the air!

Soy candles are another safe option. Just be sure you stick with something that hasn’t been made with pesticides or GMOs. This can be more difficult to find than beeswax candles.

Palm oil candles are yet another alternative. They’re safe to burn and non-toxic, so they’re better for your health. But we didn’t include them on our list because they’re not the most eco-friendly option. They’re better for you than paraffin candles, but growing the palms leads to massive deforestation. So, if you want something healthy and sustainable, this might not be the right pick for you.

A couple of other simple tips? Trim the wax down to about an inch. This will cut down on the smoke and soot that it produces. Additionally, aim to only light candles in well-ventilated areas. If you’re burning anything with essential oils and you have pets, do a quick online search to make sure the scent isn’t toxic to them. Certain oils aren’t safe for animals to breathe in, like cinnamon and peppermint.

Secondly, in addition to choosing something other than paraffin candles, you can use an air purifier to remove any toxins and chemicals that are still released into your indoor breathing air. Pollution can affect your lung health and make conditions like asthma and allergies even worse. And aside from your candles, you have all sorts of bacteria, germs, and viruses lurking in your home that are undetectable to the human eye. Airborne pathogens and VOCs threaten your wellness. Your furry pal leaves a trail of dander and fur in their wake. Mold can make you sick, and a layer of dust coats every surface. Ironically, even your cleaning products might be toxic. Yikes.

Regardless of what type of candles you burn, you need something in your home that’s going to be your ally in the fight for good health.

Look for an air purifier that traps particles using multiple layers, and avoid washable filters, since they can expose you to all of the dangerous particles that the purifier traps. Sans starts with a pre-filter, followed by a medical-grade HEPA 13 filter, and then an activated carbon filter. It finishes with pulses of UV-C light, which neutralize the particles it’s caught so that they aren’t a threat to you anymore. The HEPA filter removes at least 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns in size and 99.95% of particles as tiny as 0.1 microns. Sans will even notify you when it’s time to replace your filter so that it’s always running efficiently.

For the biggest impact, place your air purifier wherever you’re burning candles, or in any other high-traffic areas of the home. Because it’s silent, you won’t even know it’s there. Clean your home regularly and opt for higher-quality candles, and you can rest easy knowing that your air is clean and pure.  

Staying healthy doesn’t have to mean giving up the things you love. Enjoy your candles while also protecting your family. Shop with Sans today and get the best of both worlds.
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