Scented candles and home fresheners are popular and often touted as the ultimate indulgence for wellbeing. But are they all that safe? Read on…
There is a link between sweet smelling scents and emotional wellbeing. A whiff of certain fragrances takes us to a state of calmness and wellbeing. Many top spas use scented candles in their massage rooms to make you relax, while some women use them at home or burn incense to freshen the air. But as people’s obsession with exotic smelling candles, room scenters and air fresheners soars, researchers say these home fragrances may be giving off toxic fumes. Some experts say scented candles are not as innocent as they seem. They say many release toxic chemicals into your home that can impact on your health.
A UK government report released a few years ago confirmed that indoor scents and air fresheners of all types are a source of potentially dangerous compounds called volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), which include xylenes, aromatic hydrocarbons, dichlorobenzenes and terpenes. The latter are a class of chemicals found in pine, lemon and orange oils often used to make home products smell good. As well as scenters, these chemicals are also found in seemingly innocent cleaning products that most people use at home.
Cheap scented candles, usually made from paraffin wax, are the worst offenders and should be avoided completely. Experts advise that you read the label before buying and look out for descriptions such as ‘fragrance’ or ‘perfume’, which mean the product may contain many different synthetic chemicals. Most of these candles are made from a by-product of the petroleum industry, and are pumped full of synthetic perfumes that give off a noxious cocktail of harmful chemicals. These can penetrate the deepest parts of your lungs, potentially triggering respiratory illness and allergies.
A study done at South Carolina University in the US found scented candles could release damaging levels of chemicals, such as benzene, that can trigger inflammation, lung irritation, asthma or even cancer. The fact that scented candles are often used in small, unventilated rooms – for example in the bathroom, massage room, or at night when windows are closed – only magnifies the health risk.
A Dutch study by Maastricht University highlighted just how many chemicals you may be exposed to when using these products. Scientists tested air in churches that were frequently burning candles and incense. They found dangerously high levels of carcinogenic chemicals such as hydrocarbons. The church air was also high in harmful free radicals.
Experts warn that air fresheners and any synthetic products you use in your home, including cleansing sprays, antibacterial soaps, shampoo, makeup and beauty products may contain harmful chemicals. You might think that the more of these products you use, the cleaner and more beautiful-smelling your home becomes, but all you are doing is creating a toxic atmosphere that is potent enough to do some real damage to your health.
But scented products don’t just potentially increase your risk of serious disease, research shows these chemicals may also be making you more prone to weight gain, and less able to lose weight when you put it on. Researchers say there is a link between pollution and obesity. They say these chemicals can make you fatter as they affect your hormone balance as well as causing other health problems, such as fatigue, heart disease and cancer.
Research done at Uppsala University in Sweden shows there is growing evidence that scented products are not good for your health. The study found chemicals called phthalates, used as carriers for the perfume in home fragrances and cosmetic products are linked to weight gain, diabetes and insulin resistance. Phthalates are also widely used as gelling agents in cosmetics and cleaning products and to make plastic bottles and food wrap.
Other studies on the links between environmental chemicals and body metabolism show exposure to such chemicals is high enough in many homes for people to poison their bodies natural weight-control systems. Some chemicals in these products act like fake female hormones and can cause weight gain. They also make you crave unhealthy foods and reduce the effectiveness of natural body chemicals that make you able to lose weight naturally.
The toxins also interfere with the body’s natural weight control by reducing levels of adrenaline and dopamine, the hormones that help us burn fat, control appetite and want to stay active rather than sedentary. These synthetic chemicals also can’t be broken down by the body, so they build up in increasing levels in the body’s fat stores – in turn creating yet more disruption to the body’s natural weight control mechanisms.
While this information many make you feel scared by the thought of just how many invisible toxins might be floating around in your home, the good news is that you can choose to avoid products containing them. You can switch to environmentally friendly products rather than cheap mass-market scenters. Instead of spraying your bathroom to mask the odour after using the toilet, open the windows to let in fresh air.
Make your potpourri using pine cones or branches, dried orange or lemon peel, herb leaves such as rosemary and spices such as nutmeg and cardamom pods. Use bicarbonate of soda to get rid of unwanted smells in bathrooms and kitchen, or make your own essential oils spritzer. You can also invest in a soya or beeswax candle scented with pure essential oils. There are many safe options to make your home smell clean and calm, so stop poisoning yourself and choose to be safe.
Published March 2017…