I'm ready for fall. Where can I find some healthy, fall-scented candles?

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I'm loving the beginning of that crisp air - even in sunny California, that feeling is here. At least on some days ;) My sweaters are coming out more and more, I swear.

Anywho, today, I got a text from my friend Kathryn. She's heard me talk about candles. Something along the lines of, the benefit of normal candles, made with paraffin, is that they smell great (when they aren't cloying, or they smell fake, that is). But...the cons are mean - they release carcinogens, like benzene and formaldehyde, and can cause respiratory issues over time. With improved insulation and energy efficiency in our homes, these chemicals also tend to stay put for longer. 

So, she asked if I could help her find some fall-scented candles. Specifically, "Hey, are there any safe candles you know of? I want something fall-y (like pumpkin spice or something basic like that) that won't give me cancer." So, here's what I am sharing with her - and with all of you, to get your fall game on - and stay cozy and healthy at the same time.

Here's the general advice I've got for candles:

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1. Avoid citrus and pine scents. While these scent molecules may not be problematic alone, when combined with other particles in the air, they may create known carcinogens. A study from the University of York has shown that for every limonene molecule (think, citrus smell) released, two molecules of formaldehyde are formed in the air. 

Our Four Guidelines for Healthier Candles
1. Avoid citrus and pine scents
2. Pair candles with household plants
3. Use beeswax or soy candles
4. Steer clear of pre-2003 candles

2. Pair candles with household plants, especially in colder weather. Improved insulation, while good at lowering our energy needs, has decreased airflow through our homes, meaning that once chemicals are there, they stay longer. The use of some house plants has actually been shown to increase the availability of scent molecules in the air, and to decrease chemicals in the air. So, your candles will do more of what you're looking for, with fewer health impacts. Below we include links to several plants that have been shown to decrease levels of formaldehyde and other harmful chemicals in the air. Seriously, NASA did a study on indoor air pollution. It's pretty cool. But, don't worry. You don't have to read the study to enjoy the plants.

3. Opt for pure beeswax candles or soy candles. The vast majority of candles on the market are not only made with harmful scents, but with paraffin, a petrochemical that releases carcinogens when burned - and can cause respiratory issues for those with asthma or other respiratory issues.

If you go with soy candles, you want to look for 100% soy, as often companies will advertise as soy candles, but include paraffin to help with processing. That makes beeswax your surest option.

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4. Don't use or buy candles that pre-date 2003. I know that sounds like a long time ago, but you could definitely come across them at a yard sale. Or maybe you've still got them on a shelf, waiting to be used. 2003 is when lead candle wicks were banned - prior to 2003, your candle could be made to release both carcinogens and lead into your home all in one go. Booooo.

Alright, I've got it. Do those things. But, can you just tell me where I can find some safe candles? Sure thing. Here you go Kathryn.

Made from 100% soy, from soybeans grown in the US and made in Maryland, we're a big fan of this Pumpkin Spice candle

Made from 100% soy, from soybeans grown in the US and made in Maryland, we're a big fan of this Pumpkin Spice candle

Go full pumpkin with these 100% beeswax, non-scented, and pumpkin-shaped candles crafted from a farmer's market pumpkin

Go full pumpkin with these 100% beeswax, non-scented, and pumpkin-shaped candles crafted from a farmer's market pumpkin

This clove-scented candle is made with 100% soy and is handmade in the US

This clove-scented candle is made with 100% soy and is handmade in the US

Made in Nashville, TN, these vetiver and cardamom candles are also a soy wax blend, so we want to be 100% clear about that, but they've got a lot going for them. In addition to being made in the US, their soy is from the US and their wicks are 100% cotton.

Made in Nashville, TN, these vetiver and cardamom candles are also a soy wax blend, so we want to be 100% clear about that, but they've got a lot going for them. In addition to being made in the US, their soy is from the US and their wicks are 100% cotton.

Gingerbread pumpkin? Yes please. The owners behind these candles are inspired by Midwestern agriculture, and use a beeswax and soy wax blend, from US soybeans. Milkhouse Creamery also offers a Sugar Plum scented candle...and Apple Streudel...yum. Gotta stop browsing Milkhouse candle scents...

Gingerbread pumpkin? Yes please. The owners behind these candles are inspired by Midwestern agriculture, and use a beeswax and soy wax blend, from US soybeans. Milkhouse Creamery also offers a Sugar Plum scented candle...and Apple Streudel...yum. Gotta stop browsing Milkhouse candle scents...

Made with beeswax and other non-paraffin waxes, this pumpkin spice candle is made by a company that has been bee-keeping for over 100 years, and continues to advance the science of bees. We like that.

Made with beeswax and other non-paraffin waxes, this pumpkin spice candle is made by a company that has been bee-keeping for over 100 years, and continues to advance the science of bees. We like that.

Cute!! Handmade by Crafty Dogwood, this miniature Pumpkin Spice candle is made with 100% beeswax in Wyoming. It can also be purchased in a larger size.

Cute!! Handmade by Crafty Dogwood, this miniature Pumpkin Spice candle is made with 100% beeswax in Wyoming. It can also be purchased in a larger size.

Mrs Meyer's Apple Cider candle is a soy-corn mix. It doesn't come with a 100% endorsement, but does a pretty good job here, and they offer lots of transparency on what's in their candles. Plus, the scent sounded nice - gotta be realistic here!

Mrs Meyer's Apple Cider candle is a soy-corn mix. It doesn't come with a 100% endorsement, but does a pretty good job here, and they offer lots of transparency on what's in their candles. Plus, the scent sounded nice - gotta be realistic here!

Pumpkin Pie. I can't wait to make one of those. They've been on my mind...but, oh, yeah, this candle! It's scented like a pumpkin pie, what's not to love. It's ALSO made of 100% beeswax from NY state, which is awesome. Serious shout out to HubbardstonCandle Company for this one.

Pumpkin Pie. I can't wait to make one of those. They've been on my mind...but, oh, yeah, this candle! It's scented like a pumpkin pie, what's not to love. It's ALSO made of 100% beeswax from NY state, which is awesome. Serious shout out to HubbardstonCandle Company for this one.


Alright, alright, that's enough pumpkin candles. You said something about plants right? Yes, here are some especially air-purifying plants. 

The common guava plant, scientific name psidium guajava, has similarly air-purifying effects.

The common guava plant, scientific name psidium guajava, has similarly air-purifying effects.

The Grub or Frog Foot Fern, scientific name Polypodium formosanum can reduce formaldehyde levels in your home. Click to shop for this plant at Amazon.com

The Grub or Frog Foot Fern, scientific name Polypodium formosanum can reduce formaldehyde levels in your home. Click to shop for this plant at Amazon.com

One of the most purifying plants in NASA's study, the beautiful green spider plant

One of the most purifying plants in NASA's study, the beautiful green spider plant

Among the plants studied by NASA for air purifying characteristics, is the Bamboo Palm

Among the plants studied by NASA for air purifying characteristics, is the Bamboo Palm

On that final plant note, happy candle burning and air purifying - stay safe and cozy! Plus, one more pumpkin reference.


Sources

1. Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement. NASA. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930073077.pdf

2. Are perfumed products bad for me? BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/58KFJzpJb2kyLtDPhhHqnbQ/are-perfumed-products-bad-for-me

3. The Dangerous Effect Scented Candles Could Have In Your Home. Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/scented-candles-cancer-formaldehyde_us_569f8944e4b0a7026bf9a1b7

4. Are your candles toxic? Green America. https://www.greenamerica.org/green-living/are-your-candles-toxic

5. Eight plants to purify the air indoors. Sunday Gardener. https://www.sundaygardener.net/8-plants-to-purify-the-air-indoors/

6. The 6 Best Houseplants for Clean Air Indoors. Countryside Daily. http://countrysidenetwork.com/daily/growing/growing-systems-tools-gardening/the-6-best-houseplants-for-clean-air/

7. Houseplants for Cleaner Indoor Air. UCONN Home & Garden Education Center. http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/FactSheets/houseplants-for-clean-air.php