Romantic And Instagram Worthy, But Are Scented Candles Poisoning You?
They might be the luxury accessory you can't live without, but scented candles may be doing you more harm than good.
Globally, the scented candle industry is growing rapidly in 2019, as the candle gains popularity as both a gift or lifestyle product, according to recent analysis.
The report, published in June, found lifestyle changes and the availability of products in different shapes and sizes will likely "propel" the expansion of the market over the next two years.
While the scented candles market is experiencing, there's also a push to address the possible health risks of long-term exposure to them.
Earlier this year, the U.K. Government unveiled its 'Clean Air Strategy' detailing ways to reduce household emissions and curb air pollution.
It took aim at non-methane volatile organic compounds, known as NMVOCs, that are found in domestic items such as scented candles, perfumes and cleaning products.
The government reiterated it did not plan to ban scented candles, but instead would work with industry, consumer groups and health organisations to raise awareness around the build up of all NMVOCs and explore a "voluntary labelling scheme" on affected products.
With a variety of candles on the market, here's what you need to look out for.
Paraffin Candles: What's The Deal?
Traditionally, most commercially-available candles have been made with paraffin wax -- a petroleum by-product derived from crude oil that is commonly used in beauty products.
Paraffin wax is cheaper, and allows for stronger fragrances.
But when burned, it can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) -- similar to NMVOCs excluding methane -- such as acetone, benzene and formaldehyde. Several of these -- thought not all -- are known carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents.
Dr Zac Turner, a General Practitioner and regular Studio 10 panellist, told 10 daily breathing in VOCs can damage your health long term.
"Having a paraffin candle burning regularly at your home in an enclosed area is -- to a low extent -- similar to having a diesel car in your room," he said.
"Over a long period of time, that can be really harmful."
A decade ago, researchers at South Carolina State University tested the emitted gases of various brands of petroleum-based paraffin wax and vegetable-based soybean candles.
They found paraffin candles released "undesired chemicals" such as alkans and toluene, while the vegetable-based candles did not.
"For a person who lights a candle every day for years or just uses them frequently, inhalation of these dangerous pollutants drifting in the air could contribute to the development of health risks like cancer, common allergies or even asthma," lead researcher Dr Ruhullah Massoudi said at the time.
More recent studies have highlighted the health effects of fragranced products as a whole.
Australian research, published in 2017, found one third of respondents reported health problems -- such as migraine, headaches and asthma attacks -- when exposed to such products.
A separate 2018 report, by Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, tested 100 personal care products and 40 cleaning products, finding between 100 and 400 fragrance chemicals in each product.
Despite this, Turner said companies have not updated their stock -- or are "going for profit margins above our health".
On its website, popular brand Glasshouse Fragrance says it uses "non-toxic, food grade wax", that is "very safe to burn".
In a Facebook post from 2013, it clarified that is in fact paraffin wax, citing a 2007 study into paraffin, soy, palm, stearin and beeswax candles that found all of the waxes created comparable emissions.
10 daily contacted Glasshouse Fragrances for comment but at time of writing had not heard back.
Luckily, Turner said most candles available in Australia are derived from vegetable waxes, including equally popular brand Ecoya which uses natural soy wax and and cotton wicks.
While there is no need to "stop the bath, wine and candle" scenario, Turner recommended opting for vegetable, soy, beeswax or coconut waxes along with natural essential oils over synthetic fragrances.
"Australia is pretty strict with labelling. If you plan to use the candle inside, make sure it has the ingredients listed, and avoid petroleum," he said, cautioning locally-made products that are purchased online may not be as clearly labelled.
"If it doesn't, don't use it inside," he said.
Featured image: Getty
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