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Are Candles Bad For You? The Shocking Reality Plus 17 Purifying Diffuser Blends

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Many people love to burn candles, use room sprays, plug-ins and other room scents. I used to be the same.

I loved the smell of candles and how they made a home feel so, well, homey.  The smells would take you places – the beach, to grandma’s kitchen with fresh-baked cookies, to that lemon sorbet you enjoyed last summer.

Unfortunately, as much as I loved burning candles, I was horrified when I asked the question are candles bad for you? Read on to find out what I learned!

An image of a candle on a table with yellow flowers and a text overlay that says Are Candles Bad For You? The Shocking Reality (Plus 17 Purifying Diffuser Blends)

While candles smell amazing, they are actually adding health risks to our families and fur babies from:

• Paraffin wax

• Lead-core wicks

• Synthetic fragrance

People with allergies, asthma, allergies or sensitivity to certain chemicals, have a greater chance of being impacted by the toxins from candles, everything is negatively affected by the exposure to chemicals in candles.

Are Candles Bad for You? – What Toxins are in Candles, Anyway?

Most candles are made of paraffin wax.  Paraffin is a petroleum waste product that is bleached with chemicals to make them more attractive for consumers.

The paraffin creates highly toxic benzene and toluene (both known carcinogens) when burned.

In fact, the soot released when paraffin candles are burned is as what is found in diesel fuel fumes and studies have shown can be as dangerous as being exposed to second-hand smoke. In 2001, an EPA study confirmed that burning paraffin candles emits harmful toxins and increases health risks with each exposure.

Another study, done at South Carolina State University concluded that burning paraffin wax releases potentially dangerous chemicals, such as toluene, as mentioned above.

The scary part (other than exposing ourselves and our families to harmful chemicals) is that candle companies are not even required to list ingredients on their labels!  This is alarming as we have no idea what chemicals are being used to produce the artificial scents listed as “fragrance”.

The artificial fragrances that create candle scents normally contain phthalates.

When burning the candles, the phthalates are released into the air where they are inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Once they enter the bloodstream, they can aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms in some people and have been found to alter hormone levels.

Fragrances added to candles can contain a mixture of hundreds of chemicals that are known to release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOCs can:

irritate our eyes, nose and throat

create difficulty breathing

cause harm to the central nervous system and other organs.

In addition, burning scented candles can release volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde that may increase your cancer risk.

Did you know that you don’t even have to light a candle to be exposed to the chemicals in it?  Yep! Simple evaporation from an uncovered candle can emit pollutants into the air and even just touching a candle can cause absorption of chemicals through the skin.

So, are candles bad for you? Well, yes, but here are some great diffuser recipes that you may enjoy (and make you forget about candles) – including some for purifying air and some that remind you of your favorite candle scents! Click To Tweet

Candle Wicks – Toxic Too?

Candle wicks are another potential source of toxins in candles. Wait. What?

Yep, it’s true.

While the US banned the use of candle wicks containing lead many years’ ago in favor of the healthier cotton or paper, lead-core wicks can still be found, especially in products manufactured in China or Taiwan.

Look at this statistic: a candle wick containing lead releases five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children and exceeds EPA pollution standards for outdoor air. How awful is that for indoor burning?

Although the US banned the import of lead-containing candles from other countries, packaging and manufacturing sources are not always honest by failing to disclose if the wicks contain lead.

Finally, burning candles also poses a fire risk. There are over 15,000 house fires each year caused by burning candles. 

What About Soy and Other “Natural” Candles?

Sure, there are quality candles out there that are made using safer ingredients like beeswax or soy wax (soy wax candles still contain some soot and toxic chemicals if they contain artificial ingredients), but they can be pricey.  And, even though the smoke is cleaner, it’s a good idea to minimize your intake of any type of smoke.

Candles vs Diffusers

Instead of burning candles, we switched completely to diffusers with essential oils.  In fact, we have one in nearly every room of our home and even in our RV!

The cost of diffusing essential oils is considerably less than buying a candle. When researching this article, I found that the cost of a pumpkin spice all-natural candle ranges from $15 (for a tiny one) to nearly $30!  The larger one will give you around seventy hours of burn time.

Compare that to the cost of diffusing:

5 drops Thieves = $0.70

5 drops Orange = $0.22

Tap water = negligible

70 hours diffusing = $10.73

And, if you don’t want that scent blend every day, you can simply use different essential oils for a different scent (see some great diffuser recipes below).

Burning candles may smell lovely, however…

#1 – they are a huge contributor to toxic indoor air quality

#2 – they can be harmful to our health

#3 – they are a fire hazard (especially around kids and pets)

You may enjoy this video answering the question: Are candles bad for you?

Essential Oils for Purifying the Air

There are dozens of essential oils for purifying the air (hello cold and flu season!). Here is a partial list of essential oils known for purifying the air. 

Combine a few for a unique and purifying scent experience:

  • Bergamot essential oil
  • Cedarwood essential oil
  • Clove essential oil
  • Cinnamon essential oil
  • Cypress essential oil
  • Eucalyptus essential oil
  • Geranium essential oil
  • Ginger essential oil
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Lemon essential oil
  • Lemongrass essential oil
  • Lime essential oil
  • Peppermint essential oil
  • Pine essential oil
  • Rosemary essential oil
  • Spearmint essential oil
  • Tea Tree essential oil
  • Thyme essential oil
  • Vetiver essential oil

10 Amazing Diffuser Blends for Air Purification (and 7 Diffuser Blends That Mimic Your Favorite Candle Scents)

So, are candles bad for you? Well, yes, but here are some great diffuser recipes that you may enjoy (and make you forget about candles) – including some for purifying air and some that remind you of your favorite candle scents:

Click any of the images below for a printable with 5 great diffuser blend recipe cards! (See below for a 6-page PDF with amazing air purification diffuser blends!)

Amazing Diffuser Blends

Crystal Clean Diffuser Blend

• 3 drops Cypress essential oil

• 2 drops Bergamot essential oil

• 2 drops Lemon essential oil

Perfectly Purified

This one is fantastic for air purification!

• 2 drops Lavender essential oil

• 2 drops Eucalyptus essential oil

• 2 drops Lemon essential oil

• 2 drops Rosemary essential oil

Revitalize the Air

• 4 drops Cedarwood oil

• 2 drops Rosemary oil

• 1 drop Lemongrass oil

Lemon Drop

• 3 drops Lavender oil

• 3 drops Lemon oil

• 2 drops Bergamot oil

Beautiful Bathroom Deodorizer

• 2 drops Lemongrass essential oil

• 2 drops Peppermint essential oil

• 2 drops Spearmint essential oil

Germ Buster

• 2 drops of lavender

• 2 drops of lemon oil

• 2 drops of peppermint

• 1 drop of tea tree oil

Clean Home

• 5 drops of tea tree oil

• 5 drops of lavender

• 2 drops of lemon oil

Bathroom Bliss

• 5 drops of peppermint

• 5 drops of lemongrass

Rainforest Rain

• 3 drops of tangerine or orange oil

• 3 drops of lime oil

• 2 drops of lemongrass

• 2 drops of peppermint oil

Take a Deep Breath

• 2 drops of rosemary

• 5 drops of peppermint oil

Spring Day

• Tea Tree

• Cypress

• Lavender

Fresh & Clean

• Palmarosa

• Pine

Invigorating & Purifying

• Elemi

• Frankincense

• Lavender

Warm, Soft & Sparkling

• Cedarwood

• Clary Sage

A Walk in the Woods

• Helichrysum

• Idaho Balsam Fir

Breathe Deep

• Bergamot

• Eucalyptus Radiata

Calm & Invigorating

• Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood

• Cypress

• Northern Lights Black Spruce

Candle Scent Diffuser Blends

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

• 3 drops Orange

• 2 drops Cinnamon Bark

• 2 drops Thieves

• 1 drop Clove

Oven Baked Cookie

• 3 drops Stress Away

• 2 drops Cinnamon

• 1 drop Nutmeg

Tropical Vacation

• 3 drops Orange

• 2 drops Ginger

• 3 drops Ylang Ylang

Forest Hike

• 3 drops Cypress

• 2 drops Pine

• 2 drops Cedarwood

Fireside Visit

• 3 drops Vetiver

• 3 drops Northern Lights Black Spruce

• 1 drop Black Pepper

Delicious Lemonade

• 3 drops Lemon

• 3 drops Lime

• 2 drops Lemon Verbena

Bouquet of Flowers

• 3 drops Lavender

• 2 drops Jasmine

• 3 drops Ylang Ylang

For more diffuser recipes like candle scents, we love finding new books and resources with amazing diffuser blends.

So…Are Candles Bad for You?

Yes, in fact, they are. Fortunately when you compare candles vs diffusers, there’s a clear choice for your and your family’s health. You can choose essential oils for purifying air or choose diffuser recipes that smell like candle scents.

Do you research, friends. There are so many toxins in our very own homes. Do yourself and your family a favor and switch to diffusers from candles. So, are candles bad for you? Yes, but thankfully you have choices!

If you need more information or want to know more about essential oils for purifying air or diffusers, please comment below or email me at [email protected]

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