Dangers of Candles: Are They Bad for You?


When you step into your home for the night, one of the first things you may do is reach for your favorite candle to light as it spreads its aromatic smell throughout your entire living space. There are so many options when it comes to candles, from the size of the candle, the smell, the type, and even the brand of candles. From Yankee Candle to Bath & Body Works candles are easily accessible and a favorite amongst many individuals – who are wishing to improve the smell in their home and fill it with a pleasant aroma of vanilla, tropical paradise, or even lavender throughout the air. However, have you ever stopped to consider the potential dangers that loom with one light of the candle wick?

There are many different components of a candle that can release and emit chemicals into the air. From the wax to the wick to even the fragrance in the candle, they can all produce potentially toxic chemicals into the air. These chemicals could impact the air quality within the environment and possibly effect human health upon exposure.

In this article we are going to discuss the potential dangers of candles and how the chemicals found in candles can adversely impact both the air quality of your personal indoor environment and effect the health of those exposed to these toxic chemicals.

Are Candles Toxic to Your Health?

The ignition of a candle wick creates a flame that will begin to heat and melt the wax at the top of the candle turning it into a liquid form as the flame burns on. As the wax turns to liquid the wax will seep into the wick and begin to burn on its own, leaving the flame of the wick continually melting the candle and drawing in fresh liquid wax into its fibers. The wax that the candle is burning will create smoke, carbon dioxide, water, and a few other substances into the air.

The smoke that is produced into the air from a candle will have an impact on the air quality within this indoor space – this is the case for any type of smoke that is produced inside an enclosed space. Within smoke the main hazards and culprits of health effects is produced from the particulate matter, the volatile organic compounds (VOC) emission, and lead that is released from the different components of the candle that form into the smoke that is present in the air.

Why Are Candles Toxic to Breathe?

As we discussed, there are many components of a candle that can emit and produce dangerous toxins into the air that will be harmful when exposure occurs either through inhalation or ingestion of the contaminated air. The particulate matter, the VOCs, and the lead that are produced from candles are contributors to the potential adverse health effects that candle smoke can create when inhaled/ingested into the human body.

  1. Particulate Matter: Anything that burns and produces smoke into the air will release particulate matters into the air that can be hazardous and compromising to the air quality. Candles are no different, with its smoke releasing an amalgam of particulate matters into the air. Depending on the type of candle you are burning, the number of particulate matters released can vary. Scented candles, for example, due to their extra ingredients that give that added smell they will release higher rates of particulate matter into the air as it burns.
    Particulate matter are small, microscopic particles that can enter into the human body and penetrate deep into the lungs, leading to respiratory issues and the potential development of lung cancer.
  2. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): When you burn candles, they will release a wide variety of volatile organic compounds into the environment. VOCs are a family of chemicals that include recognizable hazardous chemicals like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Scented candles, in particular, are known to release various volatile organic compounds into the air – this will produce levels of VOCs within the air that are far above safe limits. The different fragrances that are used in candles are a composition of VOCs that give the fragrance its characteristic aroma.

    VOCs have many health effects that will depend on both the severity of exposure and the amount of VOCs present in the environment. These chemicals can cause irritation and allergic reactions in acute cases, and in severe cases can lead to damage to the vital organs including the liver, kidney, and central nervous system.
  3. Lead: One of the biggest health risks associated with scented candles is the lead that is contained in the wicks of some of these candles. Lead was commonly used routinely in candle wicks for years, if not decades as it helped the wick stay upright as it burned. However, once the health risks were identified from lead, the candle industry moved away from lead use and removed it from their wicks – but some candle brands still unfortunately use this material. To ensure that you are not getting a candle with lead, read the label and look for a 100% cotton wick.

Types of Candles

Today’s candle market primarily consists of three major materials that manufacturers use and distribute to consumers. Most scented candles are made from paraffin wax, but there are some new material candle waxes that are emerging in the market for purchase. The three types of candles we will be looking at will be paraffin candles, soy candles, and beeswax candles.

Paraffin Candles

Paraffin candles are made from petroleum and are typically a cheap and effective candle to use inside an indoor environment. Although this candle is rather cheap to make it does have some very negative effects on the air quality in the environment, and conversely will potentially impact the health of those exposed to this candle. Paraffin candles release highly toxic volatile organic compounds when burned including known human carcinogens, benzene, and toluene that can significantly impact human health.

Soy Candles

Soy candles are candles that are made from soy wax that is processed from soybean oil. These candles are usually placed in containers because of its lower melting point than other traditional waxes. When you burn a soy candle it produces less toxins into the air, creating a cleaner burn with little soot released into the environment. The soy candle has many benefits in addition such as its ability to last longer and hold onto the scent from essential oils – which will not release fragrance chemicals in the smoke of the candle.

Beeswax Candles

Pure beeswax candles with cotton wicks are a great choice when it comes to candles. Beeswax candles are constructed from the same wax that bees produce to make their beehives. This will leave a beeswax candle smelling like natural honey – making even unscented beeswax candles smell good. A beeswax candle will burn at a lower temperature, produce less soot into the air, and will overall last longer.

Which Candles Are Safe for Your Health

Beeswax and soy candles, in comparison to paraffin candles, are the more advantageous choices when it comes to selecting a candle that will be safer for your health and your air quality. Beeswax candles will effectively reduce allergies, asthma, and hay fever and will not contribute to the release of contaminants into the air like other candles. Whereas soy candles do not boast any medicinal properties such as that of beeswax. It is important, though no matter if you select a soy candle or a beeswax candle, that you vigilantly avoid the use of paraffin candles that can produce hazards into the air from the toxic wax.

Alternatives to Candles

For those individuals that are concerned with their indoor air quality, burning a candle will impact your air quality and pose challenges to the mission of clean indoor air. Scented candles, specifically, are a real source of concern when it comes to the burning of candles and toxins released into the indoor air like volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

If you are looking to find healthier alternatives to the potentially toxic candles you currently use in your personal indoor environment, we have a few suggested alternatives that you can utilize in lieu of candles such as electric candles, oil diffusers, and an efficient VOC air purifier.

Electric Candle

The appeal of candles for some people is the warm glow that it emits into your home to create the perfect ambiance for an evening. This is a great alternative option for those who want to eliminate the added toxins that are emitted into the air from candles, but yet still giving the feel of a candle in the environment. And better yet, with an electric candle you can light as many as you want without fear of excess smoke or scent inside your indoor space.

Oil Diffuser

Conversely, if you are someone who looks for the added fragrance that a candle provides and emits into your environment, then you may prefer an oil diffuser as an alternative to candles. Oil diffusers are electric devices that spreads essential oils over a wide area – permeating a fragrant natural aroma. Essential oils that are used in an oil diffuser come in a variety of different scents that can be used and combined together to create a pleasant aroma in the environment.

VOC Air Purifier

So, you have tried all the alternatives out there to no avail, and none of these solutions fit your needs like a candle does – leaving you to return to the use of your favorite scented candles. If this is the case than there are solutions that you can implement into the environment that will allow for you to still enjoy your potentially toxic scented candles without the hazard to both your indoor air and your health. A VOC air purifier or air filter that works effectively to mitigate and eliminate those harmful toxins from your air is a great solution for candle-lovers. Air purifiers are designed to filter out the contaminants that are present within your indoor air in an effort to maintain clean indoor air quality within a home or other personal indoor environment. Every air purifier has different functions and is effective against certain toxins in the air such as VOCs, and the EnviroKlenz Air Purifier is a top-of-the-line air purifier for VOC removal.

The EnviroKlenz Air Purifier is an efficient air purifier that provides air purification on two fronts – odors and toxins with the added benefit of particulate removal – this is all without the use of harmful compounds or particulate matter lingering in the air. The EnviroKlenz two-stage filtration utilizes a VOC air cartridge for both chemical and noxious odor removal from the air, followed by a hospital-grade HEPA filter for particulate removal as small as 0.3 microns in size, with a 99.97% efficiency. With the use of the patented EnviroKlenz earth mineral technology within the VOC air cartridge – VOCs and other chemicals will stand no chance as the technology will come into contact with these chemicals and either break down or neutralize them from the air completely.

EnviroKlenz has conducted extensive testing to show the effectiveness of the EnviroKlenz Air Purifier against VOCs, in comparison to other competing air purifiers on the market. The testing can be found below:

In this chamber study, a volatile organic chemical was released in an environmental chamber under ambient conditions.  The various air systems and technologies were remotely controlled to not disturb the environment.  The IQAir was the air system that was able to remove the chemical the quickest, but since the system uses carbon media, the chemical has the potential to be released back into the atmosphere with an increase in temperature or changes to humidity and pressure.  In some of our real-world evaluations, we have seen carbon systems start to desorb VOCs as the temperature rises towards only 80 degrees. 

The EnviroKlenz Air Purifier out performed the Blue Air and MoleKule system, while also offering more than just physical absorption.  The EnviroKlenz Air Cartridge works though a combination of physical and chemical mechanisms.


Mobile Air System
$749.00 $699.00

✓ Patented earth mineral technology works to attack VOCs and break them down on a compound level

✓ No chemicals or masking agents

✓ Will not release any chemicals back into your environment

✓ Safer and faster at removing VOC’s than traditional carbon filters and PECO air purifiers

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