Most people use candles at home to create an intimate and relaxing mood. They bring color and warm fragrance inside a room, which improves the overall ambiance. Soaking in a steamy tub surrounded by candles might seem like the best way to unwind after a busy day. However, some of these candles may contribute to indoor air pollution, posing serious health issues to your loved ones. Read on to learn how.
1. How Candles Affect Indoor Air Quality
Candles not only discolor your ceiling, walls, and surfaces, but they also generate indoor air pollutants. Most of the candles have paraffin wax, which is a petroleum by-product. When burned, they release volatile organic compounds like benzene, soot, and acetone. These are the same toxins released in diesel fuel emissions, and they can cause skin problems, asthma attacks, allergies, and cancer.
Production of soot occurs when there is incomplete combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, particularly those that are petroleum-based. You can tell that your candle emits soot when you see some black smoke coming out of the candle into the air. Anything that releases smoke affects air quality.
The smoke quickly travels from one room to another and remains in the air for some time. When inhaled, soot particles penetrate the lungs, and they later find their way into your bloodstream. This results in lung irritation. You will begin to experience coughing spells and difficulty breathing. Prolonged exposure can also lead to heart attack and even stroke.
2. Candles and HVAC Filters
The soot and smoke released by candles can land on your HVAC unit filters. With time, they accumulate, and your system will begin to recirculate these contaminants back into the air of the home, lowering the indoor air quality further. The soot may also land on other vital components of the HVAC system, which strains the unit and can lead to unexpected breakdowns and frequent repairs. If you light candles often in your house, it’s a good idea that you plan for regular HVAC inspection. A technician will evaluate the unit and clean off smoke particles before they cause more damage to your system.
3. Problems With Scented Candles
Note that scented candles produce more soot than non-scented candles. They also emit other toxins into your indoor air, which can compromise your health and that of your family. Most candles use synthetic fragrances, and they emit volatile organic compounds even when they aren’t burning. Some common toxins given off by scented candles include petroleum distillate, phenol, benzyl acetate, and formaldehyde.
Exposure to such chemicals triggers allergic reactions. You will begin to show symptoms like severe headaches, prolonged skin irritation, asthma-like complications, blocked nasal passage, and even itchy and/or watery eyes.
Most candles have cored wicks to keep them upright when burning. This is particularly common in scented candles since the oils weaken the wax, making non-cored wicks unstable. Previously the cored wicks contained lead particles. Later, the candle industry agreed to remove lead in candles since it can lead to hazardous effects, especially in young children.
Today, most cored wicks have zinc and tin materials. They still release heavy metal particles into the air when burning, although in smaller amounts. When they accumulate, zinc particles can cause flu-like illnesses and throat irritation. Although tin has low toxicity, it can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath in large quantities.
4. Safer Alternatives
Luckily there are options available in the market that prove to be safer than the paraffin-based and toxic scented candles. The beeswax candle is naturally occurring, and it doesn’t emit toxins or soot when burned, so it’s less likely to trigger allergies. The candle produces a hot flame that burns the wax and wick entirely. It’s pretty expensive when compared to conventional candles, but it also burns longer. This candle type also releases some honey-like fragrance that cleanses air odors and a bright golden light that improves the ambiance in a room.
Alternatively, you can go for soy candles made from non-GMO and pesticide-free soy plants. Most regions grow genetically modified soy, so you need to check your candle for the USDA-certified organic label. Such candles burn slower and cleaner, emitting no by-products or chemicals in the air. Palm oil candles are degradable, and they burn clean, but they have resulted in the deforestation of the palm oil plantation, making them a questionable choice.
If you want to enjoy some fragrances, you can put your desired essential oils into a diffuser or bathwater to create exquisite scents. You can also place spices like cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon sticks in a pot with boiling water and let them simmer and produce sweet aromas. A potpourri of dried spices, fruits, wood chips, and petals placed in a bowl to perfume a room is also a good option.
5. How to Reduce Indoor Air Contamination From Candles
Ensure that you buy candles with the correct wick size. Avoid extremely thick ones, and also don’t buy candles with multiple wicks. Choose those with thin braided wicks that curl when burned. Watch out for shiny metal wires inside the wick, and instead go for candles with pure cotton or paper. Always trim the wick to about a quarter-inch to allow complete combustion.
Also, you shouldn’t burn your candle in a narrow jar because it limits airflow and encourages more soot production. Place the candle in a draft-free area since wind causes incomplete combustion. It also makes the candle burn out faster, which increases the level of contaminants emitted into the air. Only use candles with hard wax and avoid the highly scented ones.
Beware of the fact that slow-burning candles may contain toxic additives. Ensure that you extinguish the candle after an hour of use and allow it to cool completely before relighting. Keep your rooms well ventilated whenever you are using candles.
Ensure that you also change the HVAC filter more often than usual if you regularly burn candles. If you suspect any problems with your candles, stop burning them immediately and switch to safer options. You should also call in a professional to test air quality and advise on the best course of action.
Frequently burning candles in inadequately ventilated spaces can cause adverse health effects, as outlined above. They emit pollutants that lower your indoor air quality. If you have a family member with respiratory problems, you should exercise some caution when using candles. Minimize exposure to paraffin wax candles for such people. The scented candle also emits toxins that cause severe reactions for people with asthma or other respiratory allergies.
If you need professional assistance with your indoor air quality, you can always reach out to Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating. We have highly trained technicians who will assess the air quality within your house and provide a viable solution to make your home healthier. Our company also deals with AC and heating system installation, repair, and maintenance services. We offer duct cleaning and ductless AC systems in San Antonio, TX, and the surrounding areas. Call us now and book an appointment to try out any of our services. We look forward to assisting you.