Sometimes, the most harmful things come in small, ornate, and undeniably beautiful packages. They may even smell good too. This is certainly the case with scented candles. These often low-cost products can greatly diminish the indoor air quality (IAQ) of your Louisville, Kentucky home. If you’re in the habit of burning candles to create ambiance or simply freshen things up, read on to find out why doing so can be bad for your health.
Most Candles Are Made From Paraffin
At one time, nearly all candles were made from natural substances like beeswax and tallow. Now, however, the vast majority of candles that are sold in-store are comprised of a far lesser substance: paraffin. Paraffin is a byproduct of petroleum. It is a dangerous petrochemical that’s been treated with multiple stabilizers and then bleached to give it a clean, pristine look. When paraffin is used in candle-making, it’s often combined with additional bleaching agents and colorizers and suffused with artificial fragrances. All of these chemical additives will burn off and enter your indoor air whenever you light candles inside your home.
Paraffin itself doesn’t burn cleanly. This is evidenced by the vast amount of soot that often collects on candle holders. The same dark, greasy substance that accumulates on these containers continuously permeates your indoor air while your candles are burning. If you burn candles often or for long stretches of time, you may even have accumulations of soot on nearby walls or other surfaces. This soot and the countless other contaminants that candles release can penetrate your lungs deeply.
Even the Metal Rings at the Base of Your Candles Are Harmful
It isn’t just the paraffin wax that candles are comprised of that proves problematic for both IAQs and human health. Many low-cost candles have small metal rings at their undersides. These rings hold their wicks in place so that candles burn evenly from start to finish. They also release significant amounts of lead into the indoor air. In fact, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), burning candles indoors often results in higher than acceptable levels of indoor lead.
For all the trouble that homeowners go through to avoid lead paint, lead-containing toys, and other forms of lead exposure, many are regularly exposing themselves to this dangerous contaminant by lighting candles indoors.
How Burning Candles Can Affect Your Health
Petrochemicals like paraffin are known carcinogens. They contribute to the development of deadly cancers. Paraffin exposure through respiration also increases the risk of both asthma and allergies. If you already have asthma, allergies, COPD, or any other chronic respiratory condition, burning a candle or two in your home can exacerbate these conditions.
The effects of indoor candle use can be especially hard on household pets. Just like humans, small animals can have a hard time breathing comfortably in rooms in which candles are lit. Certain animals are believed to be especially sensitive to scented candles, including candles that have been scented with essential oils.
Indoor Candle Use Can Also Impact the Health of Your HVAC System
One of the easiest ways to understand how candles affect human health, pet health, and the health of HVAC systems is by examining the dark, sooty substance that collects on candle holders, on your walls, and on other indoor surfaces. These accumulations are thick, tacky, dark, and tough to get rid of. They can cause irritation and congestion when they enter the lungs, and they can cause serious problems when they enter HVAC systems.
HVAC technicians often report finding large coatings of soot in the HVAC ductwork of homes that regularly use candles for both fragrance and ambiance. Having soot and other particulates from candles enter your heating and cooling equipment can lead to dirty, blocked filters, compromised airflow, and issues with overheating. Using candles in your home places undue stress on your heating and cooling units and may even shorten their lifespans.
Is It Safe to Use Candles Indoors at All?
Burning the occasional candle in your home won’t have a lasting impact on your indoor air quality, but there are far safer alternatives for you, your family, your pets, and your HVAC system. Flameless, battery-powered candles provide a similar ambiance. There are also dimmable lights and soft lighting, such as the illumination provided by wall sconces. If you insist on using candles, it is always best to look for 100% soy candles or beeswax candles rather than candles made from paraffin.
Element Air LLC proudly serves residents of Louisville, KY and the surrounding area. Homeowners can turn to us for air conditioner and furnace repair, maintenance, and installation. We also offer HVAC preventative maintenance plans. If you’re concerned about your indoor air quality or need to have your HVAC system tuned up, give us a call today.