Like so many Americans, my home is filled with scented candles. Between my two dogs and two kids, not to mention cooking smells, my home can easily double as a toxic waste dump. Ok, seriously, it can smell REALLY bad. Opening the windows only does so much. I frequently find myself lighting a favorite scent like “Lemonade Stand,” “Plumeria,” or “Ocean Breeze.” In no time, my house is smelling fresher and I almost forget about stinky socks and wet dog.

Then, I came across several articles regarding health risks and scented candles and it nearly blew me away! According to MCS-America, the environmental illness resource, fragranced products can contain 3,000 to 5,000 different chemicals. Whoa. And what is even more frightening is that these products are not even being tested despite the U.S. National Academy of Science urging companies to do so. So wait, these popular candles we see EVERYWHERE may not even be safe for humans? Yea, pretty scary.

Scented candles give off an exhaust (you know the black smoke that rises from the flames) that can pollute the air around your home. That’s where most of the dangers lie. Or rise. You know what I mean. The reason why is that these candles are chockful of paraffins.

Aromatherapy candles are quickly becoming the most popular and the most dangerous, even more so than the popular three-wick or jar candles. A 2009 report from South Carolina State University, chemistry research professor Dr. Ruhullah Massoudi wrote about the risks of candles containing paraffins. “For a person who lights a candle every day for years or just uses them frequently, inhalation of these dangerous pollutants drifting in the air could contribute to the development of health risks like cancer, common allergies, and even asthma.”

The risks get even more frightening: The “second-hand smoke” from these candles is just as dangerous as inhaling toxic fumes found in diesel exhaust. The exhaust from these candles contains Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. Some of which are benzene, acetone, and toluene. The USEPA’s Toxicology Data Network reports that benzene is, in fact, a human carcinogen. Acetone and toluene contain high levels of human toxicity.

Wait, is this for real? Sadly, yes!

The scented candles found at popular stores, like the ones you pass by in the mall oh so often (Yup, you get my drift), emit more soot and it’s in that soot that the real dangers lie. The soot can wreak havoc on lungs and the immune system. And it’s not just affecting humans. Our pets are often VERY close to the candles’ exhaust. Also, if your scented candles are sitting on table tops and your cat likes to sit close by and watch the flames flicker, that is just way too close for comfort.

Courtesy: Konica Minolta Digital Camera

Our dogs are also at risk, often snuggled up with us as our scented candle burns nearby. Many households are quick to light scented candles to do away with cooking odors and where do our children hang out? Yea, it’s a scary thought.

After reading several pieces written by Goodfullness and the Huffpost, I dumped my scented candles in the trash and invested in a powerful, but quiet, oscillating fan. Maybe more households should do the same!