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I used to love candles. The soft warm glow and inviting scents really can make a house into a home and the wide variety of scents and colors mean there’s a candle for almost any situation. Holidays, parties, birthdays, I really can’t think of an occasion where a candle wouldn’t be a nice gift.
Candles, however hold a dirty secret. They are toxic to human health and the environment.
Most commercial candles are made from paraffin wax, a by product of the petroleum industry. When heated, they release the same chemical compounds as gasoline, and over time can cause soot and toxin buildup (that black ring around your candle? Not good!). Additionally, additives for color and synthetic compounds for scent are often added, creating a chemical blend including acrolein, formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde that are released into the air every time you burn them increasing your risk for skin problems, asthma, and cancer.
Candle wicks present another problem. In the past, many candle manufactures included a metal core inside the wick to keep it standing up straight and to prevent it from extinguishing itself. The most common metal for this was lead. In the early 1970s, the US candle industry voluntarily agreed to discontinue the use of lead cores, however, many candles on the market today are imported from outside the United States where human health laws aren’t as stringent such as China, India and Hong Kong.
So what can you do instead?
If you enjoy the warm glow from candles, try getting a Himalayan salt lamp. They possess a soothing red glow, are natural, and as a bonus they help purify the air! We have this one which is available on Amazon.com (affiliate link) and love it, but they are also available in most stores.
If you used candles in the hopes of purifying the air in your home, try bringing in some air purifying plants such as aloe, spider plants, or snake tongue.
If you enjoy the scent of candles, try diffusing pure essential oils. They are available in a wide variety of fragrances, are natural and safe when used correctly, and are customizable. Diffusers are available to match any home decor (I love this one by innogear (affiliate link) making it a great option for decorating as well. Just make sure to diffuse high quality essential oils. For more information on what brand of essential oils I use, click here. For more home fragrance options, see my article 5 Ways to Use Essential Oils to Scent Your House.
I do a combination of all the above and it works wonderfully! I am able to customize my fragrance to suit my mood or to serve a purpose (restful sleep mix anyone?), and the himilayan salt lamps really set the mood in our house. We also have quite a few plants in our house as well, to both purify the air, and bring some nature indoors.
Can’t give up your candle addiction? Try simply limiting your exposure. Limit burn time to less than one hour, or burn every few days versus everyday. Purchase candles made domestically, or from a country with strict human health laws. Burn candles in an open area; if possible take that birthday cake outside before you light the candles. Finally, try purchasing soy candles instead of paraffin wax candles as they burn much cleaner.
Are you a candle junkie? Will you use any of these tips to limit your exposure? Got any other tips? Let me know in the comments below.