It may come as a surprise to many, but candles can pose a severe health risk both to children and pets. If you’re the type of person who can’t live a day without lighting a scented candle, then you may want to rethink your habit. Studies show that 70% of households still use scented candles to freshen up a room or mask odors. This industry is worth a whopping $3.2 billion. But you should always be careful where your family’s safety is concerned. Keep reading to learn just how safe candles are for children and pets.
The Problem with Synthetic Fragrances
Let’s get scientific for a bit. Most of the candles available today are made from paraffin. It’s a kind of wax made from petroleum. After being burned, the paraffin releases carcinogenic soot, causing or aggravating respiratory problems like asthma and heart issues as well.
Paraffin doesn’t have any smell, so manufacturers rely on artificial fragrances to make their candles more appealing to the masses. At the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, one scientist pointed out that scented candles have between 800 to 1,5000 chemicals. Each has its unique characteristics. The complex fragrances typically have more chemicals in them. Interestingly, air fresheners also contain these same chemicals. And for this reason, they pose the same health risks to users.
The candle industry would insist that their candles wouldn’t cause any harm to people or pets, but common sense would say the opposite. While only a few studies have been done to show the correlation between the use of scented candles and resulting health issues, it’s best to be aware of the many potentially chemicals to which children and pets in your home are exposed.
In a 2013 article published on Environmental Health Perspectives, a strong connection was shown between exposure to phthalates and the development of asthma in children. Studies show that phthalates disrupt the endocrine system, leading to congenital disabilities, diabetes, and even cancer. The Environment Watch Group includes it in their “Dirty Dozen,” a list of the top 12 chemicals for hormone disruption.
Even the wicks used in candles can pose a threat to the health and safety of children and pets. Low-cost candles, particularly those imported into the US, contain wicks made of lead-core. The safe choice is 100% cotton or a paper wick.
A candle that uses a lead-core wick releases 500% more lead than the minimum amount considered hazardous for children. This also goes beyond the EPA pollution standards, which is why these wicks were banned in 2003. In many countries, however, lead-core wicks are used because they’re cheap. Since many consumers could care less about the wicks on their candles, they risk exposing their children and pets to dangerously high levels of lead, causing behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and hormone disruption.
So, does this mean you should never light a candle again? Don’t worry; there’s no need to say goodbye to your candle addiction. But instead of opting for scented candles, stick to soy, blue corn, and beeswax candles. These candles don’t contain synthetic fragrances, which means none of the harmful chemicals. You should double check that the source for the candles is non-GMO to be sure. The aromatherapy benefits wouldn’t be there, but at least you still have a perfectly safe candle to use when you need one.
Of course, you should also be a responsible pet owner and ensure that your pets won’t get anywhere near the flame. Many pets get curious when they see a lighted candle. They might decide to play with it, opening up the possibility of lighting your house on fire. Surely, you wouldn’t want this scenario to unfold. At the very least, make sure that your pets (and kids) can’t touch the candles. You should also consider placing the candles inside glass cylinders so they wouldn’t cause a fire even if they’re tipped over.
Candles may be seemingly inconspicuous, but they might be wreaking havoc in your home without even knowing it. Take action right now and make the necessary changes. While it’s difficult to say goodbye to your scented candles, it’s something you have to swallow if it means keeping your children and pets in tiptop shape.