Are Scented Candles Toxic?
There’s nothing like hitting a wall of seasonal scents when walking into a store like Yankee Candle – whether you love it or hate it, the experience is sure to leave an impression. But are these scented candles toxic? We’re asked that question often. We’re also asked why we don’t add scents to our beeswax candles as others do. Here are some simple answers:
Are candles toxic?
Before we get into scented candles, it’s important to note that most popular candles are toxic even without a drop of fragrance added to them. Synthetic materials are profoundly toxic when burned, and typical paraffin candles are among the worst offenders.
Paraffin is a byproduct of the oil and gas industry and is refined from crude oil. When burned, paraffin releases benzene (a known carcinogen) and toluene (a recognized respiratory and central nervous system toxin) into the air. More chemicals are often added to paraffin candles to harden and bleach the wax before color and scent are added. Beeswax candles, on the other hand, can be 100% natural and even release negative ions when burned, which can purify, cleanse and improve air quality. For more on beeswax candles versus paraffin candles, see this previous blog post.
What makes scented candles toxic?
Efficient AC, Electric and Plumbing researched the answer to this question in a well-cited blog post. It offers valuable insight into how experts in the HVAC industry view scented candles. To borrow from what they report:
- Scented candles emit both volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and fine particulate matter in higher proportion than unscented candles.
- The more scented products used in a home, the higher the levels of formaldehyde, which can increase the risk of asthma, cancer and other health problems.
- Burning a single scented candle regularly in your home can expose you to the same amount of fine particulate matter as every coal-fired power plant and other major industrial point sources in the state of Texas combined.
You may have heard similar terms recently as we find out more about the mysterious and deadly vaping-related respiratory illness sweeping the nation. According to the CDC, e-cigarette smokers force similar VOCs and ultrafine particles deep into their lungs. These chemicals (also found in scented candles) simply don’t belong in the body and can wreak havoc when inhaled.
How do I find non-toxic candles?
First, say goodbye to paraffin candles—scented or unscented. Your body and the environment will thank you. Then, consider your alternatives. Soy candles are popular but beware: the soy industry has a negative environmental footprint and many soy candles contain an alarming amount of chemicals and artificial fragrances themselves.
We’re partial, of course, but beeswax candles are the best way to go. Be a wise consumer, though, and be cautious of beeswax candles labeled as organic or that are imported (read this guide to find out why). Look for beeswax that is labeled 100% pure with a natural beeswax color ranging from a light yellow to a deep golden, and perhaps more importantly a naturally sweet honey scent.
Trust us: Once you start burning beeswax candles, you’ll quickly get hooked on the bee-utiful scent and will stop craving artificially scented candles for good.