There’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not scented candles are dangerous or toxic to humans. There have been stories about the emissions from candles causing cancer, creating asthma in healthy adults, and generally being incredibly bad for your health. Since we love scented candles so much and know not to believe everything we read, we’ve scoured the internet for expert opinions from reliable sources, and this is what we found:
The New York Times recently interviewed Pamela Dalton in 2021, a researcher with Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center. She says that all her research and data accumulation points toward scented candles emitting fewer toxins than you’ll encounter on a walk down a city street. The toxicity levels are measured in trivial amounts, such as a few parts per million or billion. Such trace amounts aren’t going to harm you or a loved one unless, of course, you have severe allergies that are triggered by exposure.
The New York Times went a step further to ensure the consensus was widespread. They looked at a 2014 study that measured the chemicals released by scented candles within a closed room. The study results indicated that the amounts were less than half the chemicals found in an average room. They also spoke with a respiratory toxicologist with the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials by the name of Nikaeta Sadekar (this non-profit ensures that materials used for fragrance aren’t doing any harm). She agreed with Dalton that the chemicals released won’t harm even the most avid scented candle users.
Both women say that humans have an incredible sense of smell, much better than we’ve been led to believe, allowing people to overestimate the actual amount of scent being emitted by their favorite candles. While it seems a logical assumption that a strong-smelling candle is permeating the air with odor molecules, this isn’t the case. Still, there is a concern with candles, and that’s soot. If you’re a heavy candle user, be sure to reduce the soot emissions by keeping your wick trimmed and keeping any debris from accumulating in the melted wax.
As previously mentioned, scented candles can exacerbate asthma and allergies (though it doesn’t create the condition). If you’re having issues after lighting a scented candle, it might be best if you turn towards unscented soy candles. Migraine sufferers, too, can be triggered by certain scents. If you find a specific smell that triggers a migraine, try a different one. Lavender is always a good choice for those who are sensitive.
The Bottom Line
Don’t fret about all of these claims that candles are doing you harm, and throw out all your favorites to protect yourself. They are absolutely okay to use on a daily basis! Thank you, NYT, for clearing that up! We appreciate your hard work and diligence.