A few years ago I discovered wax melts and the amazing aroma from these “fire safe” and beautiful warmers. After purchasing three wax melt units, I placed them strategically throughout my home to optimize seasonal fragrances. Many scents have been enjoyed from spring fresh, summer floral, fall cozy spice to winter pines!!! Although the home always had an incredible seasonal scent, fast forward 2 1/2 years and I’m beginning to have concerns. Is there a possible connection to health issues tracing back to the time we began using, almost daily, scented wax melts and candles? My husband and I, both, have had occasional coughing, sore dry throats, headaches, fatigue, followed by daily morning congestion and most concerning, my husband’s heartbeat irregularity, which eventually led to an **Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) diagnosis. During the past 3 weeks I began searching scientific studies about the safety of home air fresheners, specifically scented wax melts and candles. At that time we also stopped using these air fresheners in our home and soon began to notice a remarkable difference in our overall wellbeing. Coughing and clearing throats slowly ceased. Congestion has cleared. My husband hasn’t had a headache. And most amazing, he hasn’t had ANY AFib occurrences. Coincidence? Did the accumulation of daily use contribute to our symptoms? The following shares some interesting findings to equip you with information about synthetic fragrance and wax products, paraffin and soy. If you are currently using these products, you can then decide whether or not to continue. Home air fresheners, wax melts, scented candles, and/or plug-ins, daily use, could especially effect elderly, small children and infants.
Click this HYPERLINKED PDF before you continue… Key Definitions – Who Knew_ You Decide! –
#1 Concern –Ingredients are not listed on wax melt and candle labels. Reviewing all products I have on hand, only one company provided an ingredient list, which was vague at best…Wax, Fragrance, UV Stabilizer and Dye. Air Fresheners, candles and wax melts are regulated by The Consumer Product Safety Commission (not the FDA) and ingredients on labels are not required. FDA Regulations states “Other products using essential oils, candles and air fresheners aren’t regulated by the FDA. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is responsible for keeping the industry safe and honest.”
#2 Concern – Synthetic Fragrance is used in many home products such as spray air fresheners, plug-ins, candle wax melts, scented candles, car fresheners, to personal care products, household cleaning products and laundry detergents. Such fragrances are made of synthetic oils in order to offer a wide variety of scents at a much cheaper price point. Synthetic fragrance can be toxic. In a study conducted by Atm.Environ.552012257 (conclusion page 7), scented candles surpassed the toxicity rate of the unscented paraffin based products. “The study of emissions among scented candles concluded the fragrance had more to contribute to toxic emissions than the paraffin wax.” If given a choice, lighting an unscented paraffin candle might be the better option! Synthetic fragrance oils use styrene and Phthalates. Dr. Axe, Dangers of Synthetic Scents …notes the following. This article also includes a comprehensive listing of products that include synthetic fragrance oils, toxic chemicals used, and its potential health impact.
“Sadly, styrene is just one of many ingredients linked to cancer being used to create artificial fragrance. Phthalates are another group of chemicals often disguised as “fragrance.” They are connected to cancer, endocrine disruption as well as developmental and reproductive toxicity. These dangerous synthetics are already banned from cosmetics in the European Union, but are still quite common in products produced and sold in the United States. Phthalates often hide under the “fragrance” ingredient, but they can also appear on ingredient lists as phthalate, DEP, DBP, and DEHP. Be sure to avoid all of those. Dangers of synthetic scents include cancer, asthma, kidney Damage and more.”
#3 Concern – Essential oils, although recommended over synthetic fragrances, can also trigger reactions. Surprisingly…”Oxidized lavender oil showed among the highest frequencies of contact allergy to studied essential oils.”Medical Journal Essential oils come with warnings about recommended use and storage. And, not all essential oils are created equal, having different purity levels. Before using these oils in your home, whether in candles or by popular diffusers, do your research and perhaps consult with your physician. Some scents are particularly harmful to pets, as noted in Are Essential Oils Harmful to Cats and Dogs? by Amanda Carrozza. This article provides a helpful toxicity list along with a warning about using diffusers, which could be overwhelming to pets having a higher sensitivity to smell. Essential Oil Safety (and Are Essential Oil Diffusers Safe?) is another good resource reviewing essential oils and their safe use.
#4 Concern – Heat changes the chemical composition of oils, synthetic fragrance and essential oils, and it is not advisable because of potentially toxic particle matter that can be emitted in the air and inhaled. Particulate Matter (PM) (pollution) is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that get into the air. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.
#5 Concern – Paraffin wax is predominately used in candles and wax melts, especially those that are bargain priced! Paraffin is a by-product of petroleum and found that paraffin-based candles — the most popular kind — emitted toxic chemicals like toluene and benzene. The sources below provide; a history of paraffin wax, its raw material make-up, and the chemicals used in wax products such as candles and wax melts.
#6 Concern – Study Conclusions
Product Material Quality
Emissions Of Air Pollutants From Scented Candles Burning In A Test Chamber Atmospheric Environment, Volume 55, August 2012, Pages 257-262 “It has been found that BTEX and PAHs emission factors show large differences among different candles, possibly due to the raw paraffinic material used, while aldehydes emission factors seem more related to the presence of additives.”
Emission Of Air Pollutants From Burning Candles with Different Composition in Indoor Environments, March 2014, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 4320–4330 “In this regard, the purity of the raw materials and additives used can play a key role. Consequently, in this work emission factors for some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, aromatic species, short-chain aldehydes and particulate matter have been determined for container candles constituted by different paraffin waxes burning in a test chamber. It has been found that wax quality strongly influences the air pollutant emissions.”
Heat and Smoldering – National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP), Fine Particle Matter Emissions From Candles “Most tests revealed low PM emission rate except two, in which excessive sooting occurred and the PM concentration approached 1000 J.Lg/m3 with six and nine burning wicks, respectively. Wax breakthrough significantly increased the PM emission rate. Smoldering generated more fine PM than several hours of normal burning, causing very high concentrations in a short period of time, which raises concern over potentially acute health effects, especially for children and the elderly.”
Frequency of Use – Emission of Air Pollutants from Burning Candles with Different Composition in Indoor Environments, Atm.Environ.552012257… “Burning of candles in indoor environments can release a large number of toxic chemicals, including acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (Lau et al., 1997; USEPA, 2001; Lee and Wang, 2006; Orecchio, 2011). It is believed that regular burning of several candles in indoor environments can expose people to harmful amounts of organic chemicals (USEPA, 2001).”
Synthetic Fragrances – Emission of Air Pollutants from Burning Candles with Different Composition in Indoor Environments, Atm.Environ.552012257 “It has been found that the BTEX and PAHs emission factors show large differences in similar candles without any clear correlations. On the other hand, aldehydes emission factors are quite similar for all the candles, leading to the conclusion that such emissions are mainly related to the presence of a fragrance rather than to the other candle parameters. This has been confirmed by the experiments carried out using candles made by pure paraffin, where almost no emissions of aldehydes have been found. Moreover, a data scattering among the three paraffins investigated even larger than that found for the scented candles is evident for BTEX and PAHs emission factors. This seems to indicate that the kind of raw material rather than the additives determines BTEX and PAH emissions.”
Studies That Refute Health Concerns
In a study titled, Human health risk evaluation of selected VOC, SVOC and particulate emissions from scented candles, evaluated consumer health risks with candle emissions measuring particle matter and their thresholds of toxicity. The conclusion was that under normal conditions the use of scented candles do not pose known health risks to the consumer. I have found that studies which support the use of scented candles also indicate use in well ventilated areas, assume candles are not used by consumers on a daily basis, and consumers are not exposed to candle emissions 24 hours each day.
Consumer Frequency and Exposure – Human health risk evaluation of selected VOC, SVOC and particulate emissions from scented candles,“Despite this overall favorable first tier assessment, it remains important to provide a more realistic understanding of potential consumer exposures. Typically, candles are not used by consumers on a daily basis. Neither are consumers exposed to candle emissions for 24 h each day. Modeling of potential consumer exposures to a group of surrogate compounds including formaldehyde, benzene, limonene and particulate matter using consumer research based habits and practice information revealed consumer exposures that were approximately 10 times below those values derived under the overly conservative standard assumptions which were used in the first Tier. Accordingly, all measured compound emissions including indoor or ambient air quality guideline values or established toxicity thresholds (see Table 10). On the basis of this investigation, it was concluded that under normal and foreseeable use conditions, the use of scented candles does not pose a safety concern to the consumer.”
Negating Health Risks – Report on the Ökometric Wax and Emissions Study “A new, internationally funded study on candle emissions has confirmed that well-made candles of all major wax types exhibit the same clean burning behavior, and pose no discernible risks to human health or indoor air quality.”
Allergic Reactions and Sensitivity – National Candle Association FAQ – “Although millions of Americans regularly use scented candles without any negative effects, it is always possible that a particular fragrance might trigger a negative reaction in sensitive individuals. Individuals with known sensitivities to specific fragrances may want to avoid candles of those scents. In addition, consumers should remember to burn all candles, whether scented or unscented, in a well-ventilated area.”
This post simply scratches the surface of all the sources available that shed light on this debated topic about the possible health implications with air fresheners using synthetic fragrances along with a variety of wax types and quality. After much work on this post I’m left with some remaining questions…
- Chemicals heated by warmers or flame (candle)…is there an increased toxicity level and health risk from the change in oil composition, which we could be inhaling as Particulate Matter (PM)?
- Is it possible PM toxin levels increase when wax color dyes are combined and burned with synthetic fragrances (candle and wax melts)?
- Has a study been conducted on the accumulation effect, using these products frequently over a period of time and its health impact? (See blog article Medical Mayhem, 6.20.17…my reaction to fish oil supplement. Even though the manufacturer eventually assured me that the wheat ingredient was within FDA requirements, I still became very ill after 30 days, from the accumulation effect of daily intake.)
- National Candle Association recommendation is for use in well ventilated areas, but there is no indication why ventilation is required if the product has been tested safe? (The labels on a few of my candles indicate…”avoid drafty areas.”
- Normal use is often recommended in studies that refute health risk claims. What is normal use and if the product has been tested safe then why is there a “use” restriction?
- Labeling on the products I own do not include frequency use recommendations or instruction for use in well ventilated areas. If these recommendations are so important for health safety, shouldn’t they be printed on product labels?
Who knew the amount of studies conducted and articles published (internet accessible), discussing and debating home air fresheners and potential health risks! Always, I am a firm believer, if something doesn’t make you feel well…then stop. My husband and I now feel great being an air freshener free home. The faux candles we have will suffice for ambiance. This past weekend (outdoor temperatures being a balmy 55-60 degrees) we opened windows to fragrance our home…with fresh air! When you can experience a remarkable difference in how you physically feel by staying clear of chemical based products, this becomes a debate you clearly WIN! If an ingredient list is not included on your air freshener product, you may want to pass on the purchase, not knowing what chemicals might be lurking in the product itself. Many studies conducted to-date arrive at different conclusions about the toxicity of synthetic fragrances and waxes. Take control, be informed, and make your own decisions on what is best for you and your family. You decide!
**I do not claim nor is there any scientific proof that specifically links air fresheners/scented wax melts and candles to being the root cause of AFib. What we do know is that once these products were no longer used in our home, there has not been an incident of AFib. The question is, can daily exposure to toxic substances identified in the studies of synthetic fragrances and waxes, referenced in this post, be contributing factors that trigger AFib events; BTEX (Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, Xylene), PAHS (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons), Aldehydes (Formaldehyde and Acrolein) and VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds)? A study posted by the American Journal of Cardiologists concludes that acute exposure to air pollution, can acutely trigger AFib. Acute exposure to air pollution triggers AFib.
- Key Definitions – Who Knew_ You Decide!
- Five ‘Must-Knows’ on the Dangers of Synthetic Fragrance by Maria Rodale, Updated Dec 06, 2017
- Avoid Chemical Tainted Kisses This Valentines Denver 7 ABC
- Essential Oils – Wikipedia
- Particulate Matter (PM) Pollution – PM
- VOC – Volatile Organic Compounds
- What Are Phthalates and How Are They Used In Fragrance Oils
- Position Paper On Phthalates 22188_bkgp_2009_12_03_IFRA_-_Background_Paper_-_Phthalates_-_Final_12.2007
- FDA REGULATIONS FOR AROMATHERAPY by HealthySolutionsWeb.com
- Atm.Environ.552012257, Emission of air pollutants from burning candles with different composition in indoor environments
- Dr. Axe, Dangers of Synthetic Scents…
- Are Essential Oils Harmful to Cats and Dogs? by Amanda Carrozza
- Essential Oil Safety (and Are Essential Oil Diffusers Safe?), Dr. Axe
- Paraffin Wax Defined, Wikipedia
- The Side Effects of Paraffin Wax, Livestrong.com
- CNN article, Study: Some types of candles may pollute indoor air
- What Chemicals Are In Your Soy Candles? Aloha Bay
- Atmospheric Environment, Volume 55, Sciencedirect.com
- Environmental Science and Pollution Research, March 2014, Volume 21, Issue 6,
- National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP),
- Human health risk evaluation of selected VOC, SVOC and particulate emissions from scented candles, RIFM.org
- Report on the Ökometric Wax and Emissions Study
- Research Institute For Fragrance Materials
- National Candle Association (NCA) and, National Candle Association
- FAQMedical Mayhem, ModifySimpleLife 6.20.17
- Atrial Fibrillation (Afib)
- Acute exposure to air pollution triggers AFib American Journal of Cardiologists