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Candles Cause Cancer?

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Researchers from South Carolina State University hypothesize that burning candles may cause cancer.

After studying the emissions of paraffin wax candles, they discovered that the candles emitted several harmful substances such as formaldehyde and other chemicals, in ‘sharp peaks’. Medical professionals think that these chemicals can cause asthma and lung cancer.

Amid Hamidi, lead researcher in the study, said that people who use candles every day or very frequently were most at risk of developing respiratory illnesses and cancer, for instance, people who light candles around their bath tub at night.

He said that people who just use candles occasionally need not worry as it isn’t likely to affect their health.

His study is not the only one that has looked into candles and cancer. Previous research has been undertaken at the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of South Florida, on the use of scented candles and it found that candles are capable of emitting a variety of dangerous substances including lead, ethanol, benzene and methyl ethyl ketone.

91 candles were tested for lead emissions and it was found that 27 of them had wire wicks. One of those 27 was also in a metal container. Four of the candles were found to emit lead in quantities ranging from 0.40 µg/min to 120 µg/min. Researchers suggested that the possible impact from using scented candles included aggravation of asthma, neurological diseases, behavioural disorders and cancer.

However, the NHS of the UK isn’t alarmed because they say that the more recent study hasn’t been published yet and they think there is ‘no evidence’ that candles can harm.

Dr. Joanna Owens, from Cancer Research UK, said
“There is no direct evidence that everyday usage of candles can affect our risk of developing cancer. In terms of cancer, a far more significant type of indoor air pollution is second-hand cigarette smoke.”

Researchers have suggested ways to enjoy candles safely:

• Make sure your room is well ventilated
• Don’t use paraffin based candles – opt for beeswax or soy ones
• Limit your usage – don’t use them every day.

All in all, don’t panic. People have been using candles for hundreds of years, but maybe in our modern day polluted environment, we are more susceptible than before?

Sources: NHS Choices, nhs.co.uk and CHARACTERIZATION OF SCENTED CANDLE EMISSIONS AND ASSOCIATED PUBLIC HEALTH RISKS" by J. DAVID KRAUSE, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, College of Public Health, University of South Florida, August 1999. Major Professor: Raymond D. Harbison, Ph.D. Copyright by J. David Krause 1999.

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.

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I recently read an article on this subject and although it never occurred to me, I wasn't really surprised either. Have you ever been in a room with little to no ventilation and turned on a candle? After a while, a scent coming from the candle (not the nice, apple smell) starts to become more of a nuisance than pleasant. Could very well be these toxins that are now not only found to increase risk for cancer, asthma, and eczema.

Fortunately, most people use them in well ventilated areas. This is actually a great article when considering what kinds of candles should be purchased during Hurricane season (now!) when there is only the ventilation from the one working fan or no ventilation at all.

August 25, 2009 - 5:03pm
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