Do Candles Harm Indoor Air Quality?


Candles are trendy among homeowners for a reason. They are a gentle way to add a light scent to your home and overpower any foul odors. Some people enjoy lighting different candles to complement seasons or events. For example, some people will burn gingerbread candles during the winter holidays and switch to an ocean breeze candle for the summer.

However, studies are finding that candles also hurt indoor air quality. Most candles available in stores emit harmful chemicals into the air. A common misconception is that this only happens when someone lights the candle, but even unlit candles can harm air quality.

Comparison of Candle Wax Types

There are many different types of candles, so examining each kind and their impact on indoor air quality is essential to maintaining a healthy home.

Paraffin Wax Candles

A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Tropical Disease and Health found that paraffin candles emit pollutants that can have health consequences. This study found that the best practice is to avoid burning paraffin wax candles in interior spaces. These candles are petroleum-based, as paraffin is a petroleum byproduct, and pollution from their emissions can impact home ventilation systems and discolor your walls and ceilings.

Companies make paraffin wax candles by taking petroleum waste and bleaching it. Then, workers remove its natural odors and add fragrance. When someone lights the candles, the paraffin wax that makes up the base of the candle can release toxic volatile organic compounds into the air.

Several known carcinogens are typically released, including:

  • Toluene
  • Acetone
  • Benzene
  • Alkenes

These elements can also cause allergies, asthma attacks, and skin damage.

Soy Wax and Beeswax Candles

Unsurprisingly, soy wax and beeswax candles are much safer than paraffin wax candles. Soy wax and beeswax rely on healthier natural resources, producing fewer air pollutants. A study from as early as 2002 from the Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society concludes that soy wax and beeswax candles generate far less soot than paraffin candles. Soot is one of the negative ways candles can affect health and damage your lungs.

Candle Chemical Fragrences

Unfortunately, the wax composition is not the only way a candle can harm indoor air quality. The chemical fragrances that create the smells you find so delightful can also damage your body. These fragrances are synthetic, utilizing many different chemicals and dyes which emit toxic volatile organic compounds into the air, even when the candle remains unlit.

A few common volatile organic compounds that mass-produced candles emit just from their scent can cause headaches, dizziness, respiratory tract infections, and asthma attacks. Here are the ones to watch out for:

  • Esters
  • Formaldehyde
  • Petroleum Distillates
  • Limonene

Candles With Cored Wicks

Most candles have cored wicks. Companies make these wicks from cotton and surround them with metal to keep the wick from collapsing as the candle burns and melts in a lumpy pile in the wax. Scented candles typically use cored wicks because the oils that provide the scent soften the wax even more. However, these cored wicks have a damaging history of causing health problems.

While no longer allowed, manufacturers used to use lead as the support metal, leading to many lead poisoning reports in adults and children alike. These days, companies use zinc and tin, which can still release tiny amounts of harmful particles. In fact, all metal-core wicks will release slight quantities of heavy metal into the air when someone lights the candle.

If you want to embrace a safer candle alternative, you can try using essential oils instead. They have many of the same fragrances as candles but without the toxic effect on your indoor air quality.

However, it could also be time to consider embracing the smell of clean air. Your home can experience clean, circulating air with an excellent HVAC system. A stale and unpleasant home odor, a problem people try to solve with candles, would vanish with better ventilation from top-rated HVAC services. At Texas Air Authorities, we pride ourselves on our professional and efficient service. We dedicate ourselves to improving your indoor air quality. Since 1999, we have been providing heating and cooling services to Arlington, TX and the greater Tarrant County area. To improve your air quality, we offer ventilation, air purification, humidification and dehumidification, air scrubbers, and traditional heating and cooling services. Contact Texas Air Authorities today to learn more and get clean air flowing through your house again.

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