Are Candles Bad for You? | Nomad Noé

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Are Candles Bad for You?

With a global US market that exceeds $533.5 million and a projected growth rate of 3.3%, scented candles are a big business. Recently, there have been concerns about the safety of this popular product. Are candles bad for you? If so, what can you do to make them safer?

Dreamer in London scented candle

Why Do People Ask Are Candles Bad for You?

There are several reasons people began to question the safety of scented candles.

Two Studies

A 2009 study linked burning paraffin wax with the release of volatile organic compounds that cause cancer. A second study indicated a potential link between burning candles in poorly ventilated areas and bladder cancer due to the phthalates released. However, organizations questioned the validity of these studies because they were never published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Viral Stories

Several viral stories circulated on social media making various claims about the harmful effects of burning candles. However, these stories lacked any scientific evidence to back their claims.

Poor Understanding of the Human Sense of Smell

Many people believe that humans have a very poor sense of smell compared to other animals. This causes them to think that if a scent is strong, there must be a large amount of the substance that produces it in the product. However, humans can detect scents in the air that are barely present. Candles do not have to contain large amounts of scent-emitting substances to produce strong smells. As a result, people are not breathing in the amount of these substances they believe that they are when they burn scented candles.

What Happens When You Burn a Candle?

People who ask "Are candles bad for you?" are often concerned about chemicals that are released during the combustion process. When you light a candle, the heat from the flame causes the wax near the wick to melt. Capillary action causes the melted wax to be drawn into the wick, where the heat vaporizes it. This produces carbon dioxide and water vapor. Small amounts of smoke, soot and chemicals may be released into the air during this process.

What Are the Health Impacts of Scents?

Research has found that scents can have a powerful impact on mood by interacting with the part of the brain that affects memory and emotions. Some scents may lower heart rate and blood pressure. Certain scents have been linked with reducing stress and promoting relaxation. 

Do Scented Candles Trigger Asthma or Allergies?

People who have allergies or asthma may be particularly concerned with the question, "Are candles bad for you?" People with asthma or allergies can enjoy scented candles by taking a few precautions. Choose high-quality candles that are designed to burn cleanly. A well-made candle will produce very little smoke when burned properly but disturbing a lit candle can cause it to smoke. Avoid moving candles while they are lit or placing them in drafty areas, such as in front of a vent, fan or window.

Are Lead Wicks Dangerous?

At one time, candle makers routinely put metal in candle wicks to help the wick stay upright when burned. However, due to concerns about lead poisoning in children, the industry voluntarily removed lead-based wicks from candles in the 1970s, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the manufacture of candles with lead wicks in 2003.

Today, the majority of metal-core wicks manufactured in the United States contain tin or zinc, which are both considered safe and non-toxic. However, you may want to avoid the use of candles with metal core wicks that have been imported from other countries or that you don't know the origin of.

What About Smoke and Soot?

The smoke and soot from burning candles is another concern of those who ask, "Are candles bad for you?" Breathing a large amount of any type of smoke can be harmful to health; however, the small amount of smoke and soot produced by burning candles is not. You can minimize smoke and soot exposure from candles by burning them in a well-ventilated room that is free from drafts.

What Does the Research Say?

The candle industry has done most of the research on the health impacts of burning candles. However, independent researchers have endorsed the validity of its studies.

The European Candle Association funded a 2007 study that checked all of the major types of candle wax for 300 toxic chemicals. The researchers concluded that for all wax types, the level of chemicals released was significantly below the level that would harm human health.

A 2014 study found that while burning candles does release potentially cancer-causing chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde, the highest levels recorded during the study measured less than half the amount considered safe by the World Health Organization. 

Are Candles Bad for the Environment?

The research suggests that the answer to the question "Are candles bad for you?" is no. However, are they bad for the environment? Because paraffin wax is manufactured from petroleum byproducts, some environmentalists believe it is bad for the environment. However, research has indicated that candles made from paraffin are biodegradable. If you prefer to avoid paraffin candles, you can purchase candles made from soy, beeswax, stearin or vegetable products instead.

How Can You Make Candles Safer?

While most experts agree that there is no scientific evidence that supports the idea that candles are harmful to human health, there are steps you can take to make them safer:

  • Burn candles only in well-ventilated areas.
  • Avoid drafts.
  • Trim wicks to about 1/4 inch.
  • Keep pooled wax free of debris.
  • Only purchase candles from reputable manufacturers.

Are Candles Bad for You at Nomad Noé?

If you are asking, "Are candles bad for you at Nomad Noé?" you can have peace of mind that all of the candles we sell are safe. Our candles are made from a blend of vegetable waxes that is hand-poured in the USA. They are vegan and cruelty-free and free of sulfates and phthalates. Our candles are designed to burn clean, are made from sustainable materials and come in reusable jars. Visit us online to find out more.

Poet scented candle by Nomad Noé


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