Is lighting candles at home bad for you?

The ambient candles they have become a permanent feature in many homes because they create a suggestive atmosphere.

However it is good to understand if submitting to their exhalations for long hours during the day or in the evening can be good or cause some damage to health.

The health effects of burning candles

Beautiful to display and also excellent as a gift, the candles indoors are very common and are often believed to be harmless. It’s not entirely like that but why when they are burned, they release carbon monoxide, soot and chemical compounds into the air, including toluene and benzene.

It is known how carbon monoxide and soot worsen the air, but the effects of toluene and benzene are much less so.

Toluene can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and skin and cause respiratory problems in predisposed persons.

Depending on the level of exposure, toluene can also lead to fatigue, confusion, dizziness, headaches, anxiety and insomnia, as well as damage to the kidneys, liver and nerves.

Even the benzeneone of the toxins released when smoking cigarettes, is not an ally of health given that is recognized as a carcinogen.

Obviously these effects are seen in the face of massive exposurealmost always higher than that guaranteed by room candles, which however do not have the same effect on everyone.

People with pre-existing lung conditions such as asthma are at slightly higher risk to have attacks in the presence of lighted candles in the room where they are, so they should be a little more cautious in using them.

Adverse reactions to candles most commonly occur in the childrenas the fumes affect their respiratory system more easily.

Beware of scented candles

The most common indoor candles are those scented, but unfortunately they also seem to be the most dangerous ones. While there are still enough studies to prove whether scented candles are toxic, they are likely to contain volatile organic compounds or formaldehydewhich can lead to allergic reactions and aggravate existing respiratory diseases.

Some recent research also supports this. A January 2023 study published in ‌ BMC Public Health of college students who used scented candles found health problems including headaches, shortness of breath and coughs in a quarter of them, and that exposure to an hour or more was associated with a higher incidence of headaches, sneezing, and shortness of breath.

How to choose safer candles

The safest option when buying candles is to choose them without scent, but since part of the atmosphere created by these objects comes from their aroma, it is not necessary to give it up altogether. Just keep in mind some precautions.

The first rule is to opt for candles with wax and natural ingredients or essential oils. Although studies on the matter are still few, it seems that paraffin-based candles, which are made from a petroleum compound, can increase the release of formaldehyde into the air, compared to beeswax or vegetable-based wax like soy.

It is also important check the wicks, avoiding colored or metallic ones, which may contain toxic chemicals and cause health risks. Uncolored cotton, paper, or wood wicks are a safer option.

How to use candles more safely

  • Increase air recirculation
  • Take fire precautions
  • Don’t blow out the candles
  • Get rid of candles that are too smoky
  • Watch out for allergy symptoms

Increase air recirculation

Regardless of the type of candle you are burning, the fumes released into the air are never healthy so it is best to tKeep candles lit in a well-ventilated room. Ideally, open windows or doors for cross ventilation.

Take fire precautions

To avoid risks, it would be better to place the candles on at least half a meter away from anything that could catch firedo not turn them on in the bedroom and always remember to turn them off before going to sleep.

To reduce the amount of soot the candle produces when burning a trick is also to keep the wick as short as possible.

Don’t blow out the candles

Blow out the candles to extinguish them generates an extra amount of smoke in the air. A healthier alternative is use a flash hider to extinguish the flame or a long tool that helps bend the wick ignited in the wax, extinguishing it without smoke.

Get rid of candles that are too smoky

I know if you notice the smoke coming from the wick of the candle or a ring of black soot that accumulates on the glass around the candle it is good to put it out and throw it away because it means that it releases too many toxins and particulate matter in the air.

Watch out for allergy symptoms

The first signs of an allergic reaction or respiratory irritation from inhaling candle fumes are itchy eyes or nose, runny nose and sneezing. If you notice candles in the presence, it’s a good idea to abandon the idea of ​​keeping them lit at home.


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