Indoor air quality is a crucial factor in the overall well-being of your home. Poor indoor air quality can contribute to sore throats, sinus problems, and feeling tired and unwell. In fact, studies have shown that poor indoor air quality can impact energy levels, concentration or even mood. This can be particularly problematic for those with respiratory issues such as asthma, or bronchitis. So, if you or your family members are experiencing fatigue, eye irritation, sinus troubles, allergy symptoms, nausea, rashes or other health issues, it could be a result of your indoor air quality. While you may be aware of the importance of improving your indoor air quality, you may not have considered how candles could be affecting your air. Candles can be used to create a sedate ambiance, changing the complete atmosphere of your room, but they may also worsen your indoor air quality. So, here we’ll explore this topic in a little more detail here so that you can maximize the cleanliness of your indoor air.

The Research

In a 2001 EPA report, studies were cited that suggest some candles can provide chemical reactions, releasing acrolein, acetaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and even formaldehyde in concentration levels exceeding the indoor air EPA threshold levels for safety. This is particularly the case when you’re burning candles which have added scents or fragrances.

This is supported by  South Carolina State University study that documented that paraffin candles emitted toluene and benzene at toxic levels. Benzene and toluene have been shown to cause a variety of health issues including respiratory ailments and asthma. They are also linked to an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Why Candles May Be Harmful

Burning a candle may not only release the potentially harmful, yet invisible candles, but also may cause soot to form. This is black smoke that can stain ceilings, walls, and fabrics. When candles do not burn entirely, they are likely to produce soot, and while soot may develop with all forms of candle, cheaper or scented candles tend to produce greater amounts of soot. A Technical University of Denmark study found that soot from candles being burned is a leading cause of indoor ultra-fine particles or UFPs. These are microscopically small particles that are so tiny that they can enter lung tissues to cause health issues and problems. Unfortunately, paraffin or aromatic candles are the worst offenders for producing soot, but they are also the most common forms of candle on the market.

Protecting Yourself While Enjoying Candles in Your Home

While you may be aware of the health risks associated with burning candles inside your home, it is unlikely that you will want to avoid them altogether. Although avoiding lighting any candles may be the best option, it is not really realistic. Fortunately, there are some measures that you can take that will lessen the biggest of the potential health concerns.

Avoid Using Candles in an non-ventilated Room:

When burning candles try to avoid using them in an non-ventilated room. Cracking open a window or leaving a door slightly open will provide sufficient ventilation to allow any harmful chemicals that may be produced to dissipate naturally.

Maintain the Wicks:

Try to buy candles that are fitted with a thin wick. Avoid candles that have a thick wick or a wick with a wire core that will keep it upright. Ideally, the wick should be thin and braided that will curl over when it is burned. Before you light the candle for the first time, trim the wick, so it is just a ¼ inch long. This should provide sufficient wick for easy lighting, but also limit the amount of soot it produces. If you notice that your candle is burning unevenly, you may need to trim the wick further. So, keep an eye on the candle, and if it appears to be smoking, you’ll need to perform a little wick maintenance.

Limit Your Candle Burning:

While you may want to set the mood inside your home, try to plan your candle burning. Ideally, you should only burn candles for an hour or two per day, so if you’re planning a romantic meal, leave lighting the candles until the last moments before you sit down to eat. You should also allow your candles to fully cool before you try to relight them.

Consider Your Candle Choices Carefully:

When shopping for candles, try to look for candles that are unscented and natural. The best option is beeswax chemicals which do not contain the chemical levels you will find in paraffin based candles. You should also avoid candles that have a metal insert. If you can’t find beeswax candles or want to avoid animal products, opt for a soy based candle that will burn cleaner than the alternatives.

Avoid Candle Containers:

If you use a candle container with a narrow mouth, the opening will provide an unsteady air flow, increasing flicker. Instead, opt for free standing candles placed on a heat proof plate or stand to avoid wax dripping on your furniture.

Consider the Alternatives:

If you want to create that candlelight ambiance, but want to avoid burning candles, there are some indoor air friendly alternatives. For example, candle warmers don’t require a flame, and the wax is gently warmed rather than burned. Warming your candle will mean that it won’t emit any chemicals, soot or smoke. Another alternative is a diffuser that can add aromatherapy effects to your room. Swapping your candles for a diffuser will add fragrance by dispersing essential oils to fill your room with natural fragrances.

Invest in an Air Purifier:

You can also improve your indoor air quality with an HVAC modification. A whole home air purifier can be added to your system to remove the majority of the indoor air pollutants produced when you burn candles.

If you would like to learn more about improving your indoor air quality, be sure to speak to an experienced HVAC technician, who can guide you through the options to ensure that you and your family can enjoy excellent indoor air.