New Research Shows Scented Candles and Air Fresheners Contain Dangerous Ingredients

New Research Shows Scented Candles and Air Fresheners Contain Dangerous Ingredients

It’s the season of scented candles, from pumpkin spice to apple orchard and everything in between. As the air cools off outside, scented candles are the perfect way to warm up the house. But new research shows that scented candles as well as air fresheners are risky business when it comes to your health.

Researchers have found that extended long term exposure to the chemicals in many scented candles and air fresheners can have negative health repercussions causing tumors, lung damage, and asthma.

Chemicals found in some of these products can actually change your DNA. For example, according to a report in The Daily Mail, ingredients in frankincense can cause changes to your brain. What’s more, ingredients in incense like agarwood and sandalwood can cause responses in the body that are more dangerous than tobacco smoke.


Read more about how candles aren’t all alike

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One study by England’s Center for Radiation, Chemical, and Environmental Hazards found that plug-in air fresheners may contain considerable levels of formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Additionally, air fresheners may contain benzene, a commonly used industrial solvent that’s known to cause cancer.

And scented candles aren’t much better, according to the article, “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.”

However, not all candles are created equal. Beeswax candles are a safe alternative. In fact, Wellness Mama contends that beeswax candles are actually good for you.

“Beeswax candles emit negative ions, which help reduce positively charged ions in the air,” she writes. The site goes onto explain that, “[p]ositive ions are generated by electrical devices, by scented candles, by walking across carpet, and even by heating/cooling systems. They are a fact of life, but they can carry everything from dust to pollen to toxic mold, so it is important to reduce them. Indoor air typically has a higher concentration of positive ions.”

Essential oils are another safe alternative to toxic air fresheners. Add a few drops to a spray bottle filled with water and freshen your home that way to avoid dangerous chemicals.

Read more about 4 simple air freshener recipes you can make at home

Image via Markus Grossalber

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Sara Novak
Sara Novak specializes in health and food policy writing for Discovery Health. Her work has also been featured on TreeHugger,, TLC Cooking, and Animal Planet. After graduating from the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, Sara headed up the communication efforts for a national scholarship program in Washington, D.C. Sara has also handled copy writing and public relations for a global environmental consulting firm. She loves fiddling with healthful recipes, traveling, and exploring life atop her yoga mat. Today, Sara lives in Charleston with her husband and two lovable cocker spaniels, Madison and Bella.