Think twice before lighting up your old candles
- Americans spend an estimated 3.2 billion dollars on candles every year
- Candles are burned in 7 out of 10 U.S. households
- Both men and women say that candles are always an appreciated and acceptable gift for any occasion
- Three-fourths of candle purchasers say that fragrance is the key in selecting a candle (National Candle Association)
It is no surprise that candles are popular for any occasion. We burn candles to provide a sense of comfort, coziness, and warmth-- not just on a physical level, but on an emotional level as well.
Fragrances evoke strong emotional responses. Studies done on reactions to smells have repeatedly shown that our responses to fragrances are based solely on emotional associations. Fragrance sensations are sent directly to the cortex, stimulating the deep recesses of our brain (the limbic system), and eliciting emotional reactions quite unrelated to the desirability of the aroma itself ("The Smell Report", n.d.).
Our beloved candles and aromatic household items are not going anywhere. It is, however, important that we understand what exactly we are putting into the air (and therefore our bodies) when we light up our traditional store-bought candles.
A study done by South Carolina State University warns about chemicals released into the air by burning paraffin candles. The researchers in this study "found that burning paraffin candles produced 'undesired chemicals', like alkans, alkenes, and toluene, which can have harmful effects on humans" (Massoudi, 2009). This same study also noted that candles composed of vegetable-based wax did not produce any of those toxic chemicals.
Most consumers generally purchase inexpensive petroleum-based paraffin candles. These candles comprise a large majority of the candle market and are generally much cheaper than their vegetable-based counterparts. However, as Massoudi notes in the 2009 study, "a possible increase in production and demand for soy candles could attribute to a decline of health risks caused by paraffin candles and help disadvantaged small farmers diversify their crops to yield more revenue." Massoudi also points out that soy wax is renewable and biodegradable-- making soy candles an ideal alternative to traditional paraffin candles.
Before you make your next candle purchase, consider your options. Are the less expensive paraffin candles worth the cost to your health and well-being?
Massoudi, R. (2009, August 24). Frequent use of certain candles produces unwanted chemicals. Retrieved January 05, 2018, from http://www.scsu.edu/news_article.aspx?news_id=832
National Candle Association (n.d.), retrieved January 5, 2018, from http://candles.org/facts- figures-2/
The Smell Report (n.d.), retrieved January 5, 2018, from http://www.sirc.org/publik/smell_emotion.html