Research has shown some scented candles produce smoke laced with almost as many toxins as those produced by cigarettes.
Since they are often lit in poorly ventilated rooms, such as bathrooms, or during the evening when windows are likely to be closed, the release of chemicals can cause indoor pollution that is potent enough to raise the risk of asthma, eczema and skin complaints.
Sales of scented candles have soared in recent years as they have come to represent the ultimate fulfilment of ‘me’ time.
More expensive varieties made from beeswax and soy rarely cause problems, but the majority of those sold in the UK are cheap imports made from paraffin wax, a by-product of the petroleum industry. These have been shown to release an alarming range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), substances that can be problematic to health
Dr Amid Hamidi of South Carolina University, who led the study, showed that paraffin-based candles produced ‘clear sharp peaks’ for many chemicals, mainly because they do not reach high enough temperatures when being burned to destroy the hazardous molecules they emit.
Most scented candles are made with paraffin, which brings other problems. The oil by-product gives off ultra-fine soot particles containing acetone, benzene and toluene, usually seen in diesel emissions, and known carcinogens.