#107 Fatal Conveniences™: Candles: Indoor Air Pollutants

#107 Fatal Conveniences™: Candles: Indoor Air Pollutants

It’s hard to resist those BOGO sales on giant three-wick candles. They smell amazing, look pretty in your house, and can be extremely comforting. But what is floating in the air once you light that wick?

Welcome to Fatal Conveniences™. 

Scented candles are a $2 Billion industry. But they’re slowly poisoning us. 

I wanted to do an episode on scented candles because I know how dangerous synthetic fragrances are, in any capacity. But as I dove into the research, I discovered so many more reasons to be concerned. It’s not just the chemical fragrances, guys. There’s so many problematic ingredients in these things. 

The toxins, PHAs and synthetic dyes and fragrances in candles are messing with your body. These indoor air pollutants affect your hormones, your lungs and even your skin. But it’s not just you! Your kids and pets are breathing in this junk, too. And the agencies in charge of regulating these products are really letting us down. No surprise there.

I burn candles daily. But I don’t use the heavily scented paraffin (petroleum) based ones found at the big box stores. There’s plenty of safe, natural alternatives that give you the ambience without the toxins. Before you flick that match or spark that lighter, listen up.

Other info in this Fatal Conveniences™ segment:
  • [00:02:02] A brief history of candle use
  • [00:03:45] Chemical derived fragrances
  • [00:05:20] How scented candles affect human reproduction
  • [00:07:05] What’s lurking in the wicks
  • [00:09:03] PAHs and why you should be concerned
  • [00:12:50] Safe candle alternatives
  • [00:15:00] Natural odor eliminators 

Episode Transcript

Darin: It’s that time of the week for another fatal convenience. This is a bite-size segment that addresses some of society’s fatal conveniences and the steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of them. I define fatal conveniences as the things we may be doing because the world we live in makes us believe we have to, tap water, shampoo, sunglasses, food. I dive into the hidden truths behind some of our everyday choices that could not only be harming us but even killing us, so let’s dive in.

Darin: Hey, everybody, welcome to The Fatal Convenience episode. I’m going to guide you through another fatal convenience to rid yourself of, to change your habit towards, and to liberate you from potentially harming you. This fatal convenience is brought to you by the candle makers. Damn those candle makers. What are you doing? This one I was going after originally, the scented part of it. And then I start peeling all these things. Of course, I already knew that it was paraffin, which is from the waist of the petroleum industry, which is already gnarly. But then it just got all these other aspects to it and I’m just like, whoa, candles be gone, switching them out for a healthy version. So here’s the thing. They are a huge indoor air pollutant. They’re giving off a lot of chemicals, heavy metals, and it’s from oil. So these are dangerous, I would absolutely say.

Darin: So a tiny bit of history on my move off of that because we don’t need to dig into that but largely, they say they were invented 5,000 years ago. When I say that they literally are using candles for light and everything else to illuminate whatever they had, their buildings, their homes, essentially all of that stuff. And then if you look at 3,000 BC, it’s really the Egyptians man, they just really created a lot of stuff. They were using wick into those candles. And then that was very pragmatic for them. They mostly were using beeswax because that’s what they had available to them. They didn’t have a waste stream product of petroleum. And then in the 1850s, unfortunately, they use the technique and learned how to then use the paraffin, which is from the petroleum, and then make that widespread. So paraffin doesn’t sound all that bad, does it? It sounds nurturing, but it isn’t. It’s petroleum. And then really in the ’80s, candles just exploded, I didn’t even know that but I figure candles would be around all the time. But really in the ’80s they just kind of blew up more and more and more. Obviously, what makes it convenient, listen, I love to use them in the morning. I have great beeswax candles that I use. It’s mood-altering, for sure. And there are all these benefits to the beeswax side. So let’s get into it. There are some major things here that the first thing I’ll start to talk about is the chemical-derived fragrance.

So number one, any time you’re getting infused with the fragrance, more often than not, it’s chemically derived. And the FDA has all of these loopholes for the manufacturers, not for you, by the way, for the manufacturers to get through. So when they say it’s a fragrance, that’s the loophole. They can put almost anything they want into that candle without any regard for you just as long as they didn’t fill up a whole room full of their candles and then you’re walking around going, oh, that’s nice. It’s taking over the odor in my house or the stagnant carpet or the pet smell, all of that stuff. Their number one goal is to dominate their fragrance over your room, and they don’t really care how they do it. And this is all over in the personal care products. It’s the same world, that fragrance. And the number one chemical that comes by way of that I’ve talked about this many times, phthalates.

The phthalates are so incredibly dangerous because it’s that accumulation. So think about it, you have a candle burning, you’re using personal care products. And this thing is sprinting towards changing your endocrine system. Male reproduction plummets. Female reproduction, estrogen dominance. It’s gnarly. So anyone who is burning these candles and if you have any propensity for respiratory issues or asthma, it triggers those inflammatory responses. So you definitely want to stay away from that. So number one, don’t use fragrances. There are other healthy ways to change your room environment and I will let you know. But the biggest thing is, you have heavy metals, you have hydrofluorocarbons, which I haven’t gotten into yet, but these are the phthalates and the chemical-derived fragrances are big endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. Okay, so yeah, they say they’re under the levels of what we deemed safe by the EPA, blah, blah, blah. But here’s the thing, we’re getting hit from every direction. So now you know that it’s a carcinogen, the phthalates and all of this stuff are carcinogens. So why would you even want to buy a candle that puts that in your room, with your children, with your dogs, with yourself? So I don’t even give a crap that it’s within the safety limits. I don’t trust you guys. I don’t trust you guys because you haven’t done the test. You let every chemical manufacturer slide anything they want under their fragrance things. You don’t have the testing to prove the safety. And then you let all these other personal care products. Sorry, don’t dig it. So now this other thing is, there’s lead. What? I wasn’t even thinking about the wicks.

The University of Michigan School of Public Health, they purchased a bunch of candles throughout Michigan testing the wicks. And of course, what they discovered is there were dangerous levels of lead in the air. And then a study by Jerome Nriagu, a professor of the Environmental Health Sciences who examined lead emissions from 15 different brands of candles made in the United States, Mexico, and China. He also examined that the concentration levels of lead that lingered in the air in an enclosed space. And he found was the high, high levels of lead measured 12 feet by 12 feet by 10 after only one hour, and then again, five hours. So these are high levels of lead just from the wick itself. So what do these lead poisonings do? This from the CDC, and this is tricky because you don’t smell them. You don’t know they’re around, but only short-term exposure can lead to abdominal pain, constipation, you’re tired, you have a headache, you’re irritable, loss of appetite, memory loss, pain, and tingling, and you feel weak. Geez, man, how are you supposed to know that you’re being exposed in lead? And why are these things even a thing that you can actually go out and purchase things that are not deemed fully healthy. I don’t even care the lower levels, blah, blah, blah, they should be healthy. So these symptoms can occur slowly over time. So if you’re burning candles on a consistent basis, imagine what that is doing. The other thing that we need to be aware of, and that’s directly coming from the burning of things that used to be petroleum, and this is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. 

These things are basically components of soot generation. So when you burn things, there’s a soot residue, right? So you burn any sort of gasoline, oil, refined anything, that’s what you get. So these PAHs are classification by the EPA that are probable human carcinogens. So again, you’re taking all this stuff, you’re making a candle out of it, you know the probable carcinogens, and you’re allowing it into products and selling the people without them knowing, no informed consent on the candles. Well, actually, there is because we did look at the warning labels and some warning labels are on this stuff, but people just keep buying this stuff. So there are possible cancer risks for humans, and certainly, over long-term studies. They’re classified as a probable human carcinogen, a Class B2 by the EPA. So a lot of these candles are showing up as harmful gases, and vapors are showing up as environmental precautions. So if you’re seeing something like vanilla birch, a three-wick candle from Bath and Body Works stores, and they have all this stuff and fragrant. They say they list fragrances, well, you know, now that these things are untested, and if they’re from paraffin, it’s oil. So the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are definitely an issue. So don’t buy these get-2-and-get-1-free kinds of crap candles anymore. These things are being breathed into your body. So now the candle industry is a $2 billion a year, and most of them are filled full of these polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. And so those are pollutants and those are pollutants inside your home. And so again, that’s how I am taking into effect, all of these other things, the wick, which is now full of lead, the scented candle, which is now full of endocrine-disrupting, hormone-disrupting compounds, the EPA. Come on, you guys are failing. And then it shows up also in this wax. It’s got benzenes and toluenes when you burn it, and those are all already known as highly toxic and carcinogens. This is just a candle. What the hell? You know what, I have all these researchers working for me. I’m going through all this research. I just can’t help but to get a little pissed off the more and more I linked to this. So these polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, guess what, they’re directly linked to bladder cancer. So again, we’ve got all this in the show notes. Not making this up. I wish I didn’t have to see this stuff. And I wish this wasn’t a thing, but it is a thing. So, man, candles are full of toxins. Do you get it? Do you understand now that anything you buy, you’re purchasing something that is harming yourself, other people, your animals, you don’t have to. There are other alternatives. Just because you’re getting a deal at frickin Bed Bath and Beyond or whatever, all of these things, just because you’re getting a deal on candles, you are sucking in carcinogenic compounds in major ways from the wick, from the wax, and from the perfumes that they’re using, the fragrances. No go. 

Okay, there are great alternatives, beeswax. So hopefully, again, hopefully, no bees were harmed in the making of them. That’s a whole nother thing. But I’m going to stick to what is beneficial about this. What’s beneficial is it reduces allergies, asthma, and it releases negative ions in the air. So it’s actually infinitely better. It’s not toxifying you, it’s actually emitting negative ions that are beneficial for your mood, and helps your body change and switches you to parasympathetic. And it also benefits your immune system, lowering blood pressure. Did you know switching over healthy candles can do all of that without toxifying you? But watch out that when they say they’re using beeswax. Again, another frickin loophole that they only have to use 5% and then they market it as beeswax so turn it around and make sure that it says 100% pure beeswax. There are other soy candles that are seeming more economical, producing even less soot, the cloud that comes by way of that definitely better than paraffin. So soy candle is a great alternative. And then I didn’t even know this, that there’s more and more coconut wax alternative. Awesome. What a great thing, using in coconut wax. I’m going to dig into that actually. I would love to try that. Here are some other alternatives. So if you’re using fragrance, then you’re trying to cover up smells, open a window. So when it’s up freezing out or wherever you’re at, get fresh air. Allow fresh air. Stop shutting all the windows all the time. 

Here’s a cool suggestion from greenhome.com. Use a spray bottle and you mix four teaspoons of baking soda per four cups of water. Baking soda, we used to put it in our fridge back in the day, it pulls out odor. Spray that around your home, it sucks in and neutralizes odor. What a great idea. Guess what you can also do to that spray bottle? Again, we’ll have this in the show notes. But it’s four teaspoons of baking soda per four cups of water, then you can even add in some lavender or some rose essential oil. Man, you’ve got a great alternative. So those are some great things that you can do. Then include more plants into your home. They’re great neutralizers of those odors and things like that. So there you go. Avoid toxic wicks in candles, avoid fragrances. And it’s also shown that maybe even essential oils burned in that way is not so great in candles. So maybe even stay away from essential oils and candles. But certainly infinitely better than the fragrances and the loopholes of the toxic carcinogens that they get through that. And also make sure you never use paraffin. So push back on these companies, don’t buy their products, buy things that are healthy for you, and let candles be candles. And let you be you without the toxic load. Okay, there you go. Man, that was a big one and that was just candles. Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I’m grateful to have this time with you today. So make that shift. Literally, throw away those old candles, get new ones. And start your day with the natural light or end your day with natural light without the toxic soup of these normal candles. Okay, love you all.

Darin: Thanks for tuning in everyone. I hope that left you feeling inspired to take a closer look at the everyday choices you’re making and how they could be impacting your health and even the planet. If you want to learn more about life’s fatal conveniences, head over to fatalconveniences.com. You can sign up for the exclusive access to Fatal Conveniences episodes, news, insights, and more. And all this great stuff gets sent each week straight to your inbox, making it really easy. Now, that’s a convenience without the negative side effects. It only takes a few seconds to join. Just fill in the form and take that amazing step towards making better choices. Remember, small changes can have big impact. So, keep diving my friends, keep diving. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out the interview, I released earlier on the week, here’s what you missed:

Dr. Charles: So the thing is that we have all of these inflammatory mediators. And really, the idea of inflammation is to fight infection and fight metabolic disturbances. If there’s a virus, or if there’s a bacterium, or there’s too much of this or that, there are responses. These responses that are attempting to be homeostatic. Homeostatic means that there’s a signal that’s coming in to try to keep the body moving and functioning the way it’s been moving. And inflammation basically kind of generates heat. And I’m sure that in traditional Chinese medicine, they have all kinds of interesting terms for it because you’re literally generating heat. And there are cells that generate reactive oxygen species to try to kill stuff, and it works. It actually works.

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