Candle Smoke = Air Pollution

Soapboxing again today. Sometimes I have to exercise my PhD medical scientist muscles.

Shelley passed along an interesting web entry regarding one of my favorite peeves, candles. The article, written by Katherine Bowers, a Yahoo correspondent, decried a number of common sources of air pollution inside our homes, most of which we are guilty of putting there ourselves.

Among the toxics listed such as house dust, mold spores and the gasses that seep from new furniture, I was heartened to see candles on the list. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m allergic to candle smoke and so I have a quick and sometimes violent reaction to candles burning in a room. I get red-faced, sneezy, wheezy, and just generally possessed of a bad attitude until I can escape the chemical warfare zone, which usually means leaving a restaurant, bar or a friend’s home.

I never walk out the door without feeling justifiably irritated, both physically and socially. Don’t people know that candle smoke is POISON? Apparently not. But my allergies let me know in an immediate and brutal way. It takes days to get over the respiratory and skin irritation that just a few minutes in a candle smoky environment entail. But the poisons are not just my problem. They poison everybody, allergic or not.

This isn’t exactly a “poor-little-me” web page gripe either. As I detailed in a previous post on the subject, I’m really lucky to be allergic to the poisons in candle smoke. I get up and flee, while everyone without the allergy just sits there and soaks a load of cancer-causing toxins into their skin, lungs and bloodstream.

So I’m delighted to see another web writer take up the alarm call.

Here’s what was said:

“The Pollutant: Candles”

“Sure, they make for a cozy ambience, but when you light one made from paraffin—as most candles are—you’re potentially harming your health. Researchers at South Carolina State University found that paraffin candles emit chemicals that are linked to liver damage, neurological problems, and leukemia. They can also release a black soot that, over time, may damage your lung and heart tissue, says Jeffrey May, an expert on indoor air quality and author of My House Is Killing Me: The Home Guide for Families with Allergies and Asthma.”

“The Solution: Choose cleaner mood lighting in the form of electric votives, or buy 100 percent soy candles, which can burn at a slower rate and emit less soot. If you can’t avoid burning paraffin, do so only occasionally and in a draft-free area. And cut out the heavily fragranced jar-style versions, says May; they produce more soot.”

The web page:

I’d only add that soy candles, now promoted as a natural clean alternative, still produce plenty of poisons. And don’t forget that paraffin candles are byproducts of the oil and gas industry. You’re buying Exxon’s waste sludge when you buy a candle.

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes medical thrillers, natural disaster novels, and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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