Candles create ambiance through sight and smell. They can invoke memories, help you to relax and to create a scent in your home that’s distinctly yours. But could your favourite un-wind trick be causing more harm than good?

Your candles may be carcinogenic

Candles are a favourite home décor and scent producer because they’re relatively cost-effective to buy. However, the cheaper candles are made using paraffin wax, a by-product of petroleum, which release chemicals, like benzene and formaldehyde into the air. These chemicals are cancer-causing, but the studies that have looked into the effects of health from these chemicals through candles suggest they can possibly cause cancer, particularly with extensive use and in poorly ventilated areas, though the research is non-conclusive and on-going.  

Look out for zinc and lead-based candles

Another potential health issue with candles is the wick, which may be made with lead or zinc cores to provide rigidity.

Although lead is predominantly banned, because of the health implications it has, they can still be found on the market today.  Zinc cored wicks are the main replacement. Although zinc isn’t considered as harmful, if burning a candle with a zinc core, it is release zinc dust into the air and it’s the trace elements of lead that is the concern and further research is needed.

The potential exposure of metal particles is just one of the many reasons you should only burn candles for up to four hours and no more.  

A fire risk

Candles are responsible for a significant number of house fires per year, more than 1,000 in fact, as reported by ITV in December 2021. The article continues to highlight the commonality of this around Christmas when we’re all trying to evoke the scents of Christmas in the home and with our festivities. We’re more likely to let our guard down because there is so much going on. However, leaving candles unattended, allowing candles to burn for more than 4 hours, not trimming the wicks, burning all of the candle so there is nothing left, burning several close together and near to flammable surfaces and materials are all common causes of house fires started by a candle.

The alternatives

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are still ways for you to enjoy your favourite scents around the home for tranquillity and home fragrance.

Alternative wax’

Both soy and beeswax candles are better alternatives for your candles; both are naturally derived and are more sustainable options – they are biodegradable for one! However, it’s worth noting that they’re not completely positive for the environment, as scented candles will always emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which could be harmful to your health and the environment. If you’re looking to create ambiance, the non-scented versions could be your best solution; soy and beeswax emit different light qualities so depending on the mood you’re trying to create, this is worth considering.

Alternative diffusers

Volant diffusers

Diffusers that combine water and aromatherapy oils have a lot of mental and physical benefits. A cool-mist also means you can leave it on for extended periods of time, without fear of it getting overly hot, or burning your skin when adjusting. They can also deliver a consistent and calming scent throughout your living space. These are generally regarded as the safest option, though those with allergies, pets, or lung conditions like asthma do need to be cautious of the scents they use as these can trigger symptoms. Diffusers are also the most sustainable option too as it creates minimal environmental impact compared to candles.  Look for ones with a light function and you have the best of both worlds.

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