Health | Can scented candles make you sick?

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Scented candles and air fresheners help eradicate nasty odours in the home, while simultaneously providing a warm and fresh smell. But does this come at a price?

Candles provide that instant, welcoming and warm feel to a home. Their scent is almost a secondary benefit, helping to eradicate any nasty smells that may surround the home.

Unfortunately, scented candles and other perfumed products in the home may be doing more harm than good. According to scientific research, some of such scented products can create unhealthy levels of the toxic substance formaldehyde.

Researchers at the University of York found that the ingredient limonene, used to give candles their scent, mutates into formaldehyde upon contact with the air.

In its unaltered state, limonene is considered safe. However, it reacts with naturally occurring ozone when released into the air, causing one in every two limonene molecules to mutate into formaldehyde.

While this fact is nothing groundbreaking, it is the changes in recent years that have given cause for alarm. First, the concentration of limonene in scented candles today are 100 times higher than previously thought.

Secondly, homes now let so little energy and air escape that these high concentrations of formaldehyde linger longer and can cause long term harm.

Indeed, the Health Protection Agency lists formaldehyde as a possible human carcinogen, as well as being toxic and corrosive. As such, it can cause nosebleeds, sore throats, coughs and stinging eyes.

According to the experts, the best way to combat formaldehyde in the home is to open doors and windows after using a scented candle or spraying air freshener. 

No one likes bad smells, but no one likes to get sick. Enjoy your scented candles but be aware and take heed of their ingredients.