Candles & Other Smelly Things

Did you know that not all candles are created equal? It’s important to not only declutter items from our home, but to also declutter toxins from our home environment. Today is a double whammy as we look at candles and other smelly things. (If you prefer video, scroll to the bottom of this post.)

There are several arguments out there that claim candles can harm our health. There are several arguments on the other side of that fence saying that candles don’t release enough toxins to harm human health. But I read that as an admission that they still release toxins.

Here’s where I stand, if candles release toxins, even in minute amounts, they just add up when taking into consideration all the other toxins we ingest in a day — chemicals in our household cleaners, personal hygiene and make-up products, in the environment in general. We can’t get away from toxins in our environment, but shouldn’t we put effort in to eliminate them where we can?

Many candles on the market are made from paraffin, a by-product of the petroleum industry. Some say they burn off toxic fumes into your environment. Others say not enough to harm you. Either way, there’s still toxins. There are safer waxes on the market to buy in candle form – soy wax or beeswax are most common. These burn off fewer toxins, but yes, still some.

In the US, in 2003, lead was banned from candlewicks. So, if you have candles older than 2003, part ways with them immediately. They are particularly dangerous for children, as inhaling lead contaminants can cause several health issues, even in small amounts.

All candles release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. VOCs are known carcinogens or causes of cancer. All candles should be used in well ventilated areas and the general idea is that the amount released from candles is unlikely to cause a significance impact on your health. With the emphasis on “unlikely.” No one is willing to make a concrete statement because they just don’t know.

Any smoke is harmful to our health, this includes smoke released from a burning candle. The recommendation is to burn candles in well-ventilated spaces away from drafty areas.

Burning scented candles can release VOCs like formaldehyde into the air. They can also cause an allergic reaction – if someone experiences sneezing, runny nose, sinus blockage, extinguish and remove the candle. Natural candles like soy or beeswax are usually scented with essential oils making them less harmful, but remember all candles release some sort of toxins.

So what about things like plug-in room fragrances, air freshener sprays, and other things we use to reduce or eliminate odors and try to make our rooms smell fresher?

There is no question that these products emit toxins into the air. They come with several warnings right on their packaging. The pods are extremely dangerous if ingested by children. And breathing in the fragrances, although again it’s stated to “not be dangerous in low quantities,” there are some that are choking when you are in the same room with them, and I would beg to differ. Many people get headaches. These are signs of, at minimum, an irritation from the toxins released from smelly things. And…I still argue the toxins add up. Eliminate these products from your home, today.  

The best way to freshen your home is to air it out often – open the windows. Decluttering helps to eliminate items for dust to sit on, reducing odors. Using natural cleaners helps to eliminate odors. Essential oil diffusers are generally safe but intermittent use is most recommended (30 mins on/30 mins off) in a well-ventilated area and to not breath in the vapour directly.

So getting into our challenge for today, you’ll need garbage, donate and keep areas.

With all that information in mind:

  • Discard all plug-in, aerosol style, or synthetic home fresheners from your home.
  • Discard older candles (2003 or prior).
  • Discard candles made of paraffin.
  • If you have soy, beeswax or other natural candles, do you burn them? If not, someone else may appreciate them instead. Donate any scents you don’t like as someone else may like them.

I welcome your ideas, thoughts, and questions in the comments below.

Remember you can share your journey with me and others by using hashtag #MarchMicroMinimizing, and tag me on Facebook or Instagram using handle @suzannegouldenILC.

Here’s me talking about candles and other smelly things!

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