·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Health & Medicine

Scented Candles May Be Harmful to One’s Health

— January 19, 2024

Consumers should option for candles with cleaner ingredients, according to health experts.

The cozy ambiance created by scented candles has become synonymous with the holiday season for many, but recent research published in the Annals of Medicine and Surgery suggests that the aromatic allure may come at a health cost.

The study, shedding light on the potential hazards associated with scented candles, reveals that certain individuals may be facing more than just an olfactory onslaught. Most prominently, doing so may release two rather dangerous ingredients: toluene and benzidine. These two can impact your nervous system or lead to urinary tract cancer, respectively.

While for most individuals, scented candles are a source of temporary discomfort at worst, the study emphasizes that for some, the consequences can be downright perilous. Ted flags, according to the study authors, that signal a need to reconsider the use of these aromatic delights include:

  • Vertigo
  • Headaches
  • Breathing issues
  • Watery or bloodshot eyes
  • Sneezing or frequent allergies, including a blocked nose

The study identifies specific substances found in scented candles that may pose health risks. Toluene, present in candles made from paraffin or petroleum-based wax, takes the spotlight. Extended exposure to high concentrations of toluene has been associated with adverse effects on the nervous and respiratory systems, as well as the developing brain, warns study co-author Ariful Haque, MPPS, MPH.

Scented Candles May Be Harmful to One's Health
Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels

The other culprit is benzidine, found in dyes used to color candles. The correlation between occupational exposure to benzidine and the development of urinary bladder cancer is a cause for concern, according to Haque. However, it’s crucial to note that the risk is primarily associated with long-term exposure during the candle-making process, not occasional burning at home.

Identifying candles made with benzidine or toluene is not always straightforward though. The study suggests exploring alternatives, advocating for the use of natural fragrances over synthetic ones. Soy and beeswax candles emerge as safer options, offering a potentially healthier alternative without compromising the aromatic experience.

Marketed as more natural and health-conscious options, these candles are often praised for their eco-friendly attributes. But the question remains: Are soy and beeswax candles genuinely safe?

Soy Candles: A Cleaner Burn

Soy candles, made from soybean oil, have gained popularity for their perceived cleaner burn. Advocates claim that they produce less soot and release fewer toxins into the air compared to paraffin candles. The renewable nature of soybean oil adds to its appeal, making it an environmentally friendly choice.

However, it’s essential to scrutinize product labels, as not all soy candles are created equal. Some may still contain additives or synthetic fragrances that can impact their overall safety.

Beeswax Candles: Nature’s Own

Crafted from the wax produced by honeybees, beeswax candles are celebrated as a natural and clean-burning option. With a subtle honey-like aroma, these candles are believed to have air-purifying properties. While generally considered safe, individuals with bee allergies should exercise caution.

Similar to soy candles, the purity of the ingredients matters, and consumers should look for beeswax candles with minimal or no added fragrances or colorants.

For those who may not exhibit immediate adverse effects, the study still recommends taking precautions. Opening windows for fresh air circulation can mitigate potential risks associated with extended exposure to harmful substances present in certain candles.

As consumers become increasingly conscious of potential health hazards associated with everyday products, the spotlight on scented candles prompts a reevaluation of choices in creating a cozy atmosphere. As the holiday season beckons, individuals may find solace in embracing natural alternatives, ensuring that the warmth and fragrance they seek do not come at the expense of their well-being.


Burning scented candles can be hazardous to your health — know and heed the warnings

Target recalls 2.2 million candles over burn and laceration risks


Toluene Overview

Extent of exposure to scented candles and prevalence of respiratory and non-respiratory symptoms amongst young university students

Join the conversation!