How Candles Affect Indoor Air Quality

Candles in home A few candles can change the entire atmosphere of a room. Unfortunately, they can change the indoor air quality for the worse as well.

Candle Health Risk Studies

In an EPA report from 2001, the agency cited studies which suggest that some candles, especially ones with added scents, can produce chemical reactions which release formaldehyde, acrolein, nitrogen dioxide, and acetaldehyde in concentration levels which exceed the EPA’s indoor air threshold levels for safety.

A study at the South Carolina State University found that paraffin candles may emit toluene and benzene which are toxic. These chemicals can cause a wide range of health issues including asthma, respiratory ailments, and help to contribute to certain forms of cancer.

Why Candles can be Harmful

Burning candles not only releases harmful invisible chemicals but may cause the formation of soot, that black smoke which may stain your walls, ceiling, and fabrics. Soot is formed when candles do not completely burn. While soot may occur with all types of candles, cheaper candles and those with scents tend to produce the greatest amount. A study from the Technical University of Denmark found soot from burning candles is the leading causes of indoor ultrafine particles (UFPs). These particles are so small that they can enter into your lung tissue and cause health problems.

How Can You Protect Yourself From the Dangers of Burning Candles?

Do all the health risks associated with burning candles indoors mean that you should never again light a one inside your home? While that may be the best option, it is probably unrealistic. Here are some steps you can take to lessen the biggest health concerns.

  • Avoid Burning Candles in Unventilated Room: open the door and crack open the window to allow the harmful chemicals to dissipate
  • Choose the Correct Candles: Unscented, natural candles made from beeswax do not contain as many chemicals as those made from paraffin. Never purchase candles with a metal insert.
  • Maintain Candle Wick: Buy candles with a thin wick and trim the wick to a 1/4 inch before burning. This can help limit the amount of soot the candle produces.
  • Limit Amount of Time You Burn Candles: Don’t burn candles for longer than one or two hours per day.
  • Invest in an Air Purifier: Whole home air purifiers can remove the majority of indoor pollutants including those produced by burning candles.

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