Scientists reveal the hidden dangers in scented candles

It's not just a sweet scent they're giving off

When the temperature starts to drop and the nights get longer, sometimes there's nothing you'd rather do than curl up in a blanket with a scented candle. However, could your guilty pleasure be damaging your health? Here's the full low-down on scented candle dangers.

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A gorgeous smelling candle might seem completely harmless. But if your creme brulee smelling treat is made with paraffin wax, the fumes could contain cancer-causing chemicals.

Scented candle dangers

Scientists at South Carolina State University found that because paraffin wax is a by-product of petroleum, coal or shale oil it can release cancer-causing chemicals into your home.

Multicolour Scented candle with glass jar and wooden table

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

The research team burnt candles in a chamber, which pumped the fumes into a glass container where the contents were analysed to identify the chemicals released.

'The paraffin candles we tested released unwanted chemicals into the air,' Dr Ruhullah Massoudi from South Carolina State University, told The Sun.

'For a person who lights a candle everyday for years or just used 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,' he adds.

scented candle with potted plant and wooden table

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

However, before you start throwing all your favourite scented candles into the bin, the researched noted that emissions from using paraffin candles occasionally are unlikely to affect people.

In fact, in response to the research, The British Lung Foundation said: 'We would like to reassure people that occasional use of paraffin candles should not pose any risk to their lung health.

'However, we would advise people to take sensible precautions when burning candles, such as opening a window to keep the room ventilated to minimise the amount of emissions breathed in.'

A spokesperson for Cancer Research UK also pointed out that there was as yet no direct evidence that everyday use of candles can affect our risk of developing cancer.

So, while burning your favourite scented candle on a cosy winter evening is not putting your health in any immediate danger, consider taking a few precautions to reduce these scented candle dangers.

Make sure you burn your candle in a well-ventilated space. Also, consider swapping your paraffin wax for a soy candle. They are not only better for your health, but also the environment.

Related: You won't believe how much Brits are spending on candles each year! How much money are you burning?

So give the ingredients a look when you're next picking up a scented candle.

Rebecca Knight
Deputy Editor, Digital

Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women's weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend.