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:
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.
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.
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.
Alright, alright, that's enough pumpkin candles. You said something about plants right? Yes, here are some especially air-purifying plants.
On that final plant note, happy candle burning and air purifying - stay safe and cozy! Plus, one more pumpkin reference.
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