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Can Your Candles Be Causing Indoor Air Pollution?

By Chris Brown

Your crush is coming over for dinner and you want to set a romantic mood. So you buy some candles, dim the lights, and press "play" on The Best of Tony Bennett. The atmosphere is at peak romance, but this atmosphere may unknowingly be subjecting you and your date to increased pollution. Indoor pollution can occur rapidly due to the small air space in which pollutants have to accumulate. Candle use, and especially frequent candle burning, can cause increased pollution exposure according to a recent study.

How Candles Pollute Your Environment

When a candle burns, ultra-fine particles are released into the air. These particles come from the soot generated when the wick and wax combust. If you've ever watched a candle, you've probably seen the fine line of black smoke that rises from the end of the flame. In an indoor space, particularly a small room such as a bathroom, particulate matter can build up to harmful levels quickly. In two different studies of homes with burning candles, one from Denmark (by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency) and the one from Sweden, it was found that an average of 60 percent of the air's particulate matter came from the candles. In one house, 97 percent of the indoor particles were candle soot.

The Health Risks of Candle Soot

While the risks of specifically indoor particulate manner is not widely studied, outdoor pollution from combustion sources (such as particles from car exhaust and wood burning) is linked directly to respiratory and cardiovascular disease as well as neurologic and immune system disorders. As another form of combustion exhaust, candle soot has a similar potential for health risks. However, these health risks may only come into play with extensive or excessive candle burning. The Danish study found that the unhealthy particulate matter near busy streets was still ten times higher than that of an indoor environment with burning candles. Even still, your risk from candle smoke can be minimized with a few proactive steps.

Protecting Yourself From Your Candles

The simplest way to limit any potential health problems from candle burning is to limit the amount of burning candles in your environment. Lighting candles on only special occasions and/or limiting the time in which they are lit can reduce your exposure to candle soot. For those addicted to the ambiance of a lit candle, consider purchasing environmentally friendly candles which come with reduced particle emissions. Finally, introducing indoor plants can purify your air from particulates just as studies have shown that lining busy streets with greenery can help fight urban air pollution.

Overall, candle soot is something to keep in mind next time you are tempted to take a long candle-lit bath or add romance to an evening.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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