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Are Air Fresheners and Aromatherapy Candles Really Nose-Friendly?

Updated on March 14, 2012
Make sure your aromatherapy or scented candles are made with organic, non-toxic materials.
Make sure your aromatherapy or scented candles are made with organic, non-toxic materials.

Who doesn’t love a room that smells fresh and clean with the hint of a comforting fragrance tickling our noses? Advertising has done a wonderful job of convincing us that a room is not really clean unless the air has been “freshened”. After all, those cute, cuddly forest creatures they use to try to sell us this stuff wouldn't be trying to sell us something that could harm our health, would they?

Think again!!

What these air fresheners do instead is coat our nasal passages with a film that deadens our nerve endings. This confuses us into thinking the room is fresh smelling because it reduces our ability to detect odours.

It is no wonder that problems such as asthma, cancer, SIDS, and Alzheimer’s are becoming more prevalent when you realize exactly what goes into these air fresheners.

The ingredients may include chemicals such as formaldehyde (used in embalming), naphthalene (derived from coal tar or petroleum), artificial fragrances (derived from petroleum), 1, 4 dichlorobenzene (1,4 DCB may harm lung function), camphor (affects the central nervous system), ethanol (synthetic ethanol is from petroleum) and benzyl alcohol (depresses the central nervous system). Wow!!

Are scented and aromatherapy candles any better at clearing the air safely? Not when you take a closer look. Most candles of made of paraffin wax (a petrochemical), artificial scent (a petrochemical) and/or pure essential oils. Essential oils convert into unhealthy byproducts when burned. Metal or lead core wicks are used in most scented paraffin candles; so, that they will burn longer. Unfortunately for our lungs and bodies, when the wick burns, lead is released into the air to be inhaled or cling to furniture and walls. All of the lead you breathe in ends up in your bloodstream. Lead has been proven to contribute to irreversible neurological damage as well as renal disease, cardiovascular effects and reproductive effects, and reproductive toxicity. The black soot created from burning these candles is toxic.

The American Lung Association gives this warning: "scented, paraffin candles cause lead poisoning and using slow-burning paraffin candles cause poor indoor air quality, and a serious health concern."

Incense has been proven to release dangerous amounts of cancer-causing toxins into the air. These toxins are inhaled and circulated throughout the body doing the same damage to your body as air fresheners and candles. So…how do you freshen a room?

Air fresheners are no better than candles.
Air fresheners are no better than candles.

Here a few simple, inexpensive, healthy ways to freshen the air in your home.

  1. Open the windows
  2. Burn 100% pure beeswax candles with 100% cotton or paper wicks
  3. Simmer fragrant herbs such as rosemary or thyme in a saucepan or warming diffuser
  4. Use baking soda in your closets and bathroom as well as your fridge
  5. Use vinegar and water to clean
  6. Mix a few drops of a pure essential oil with water in a mister and spritz
  7. Crush dried lavender and place in a small lidless container out of sight
  8. Grow air-cleaning household plants. The top ten air cleaners (in descending order) are: areca palm, Reed palm, Dwarf date palm, Boston fern, Pothos, English ivy, Australian sword fern, Peace lily, Rubber plant and the Weeping fig. An additional benefit these plants provide is to reduce the carbon dioxide in a room
  9. Use volcanic rock to absorb odours
  10. Simmer homey spices like cinnamon and cloves on the stovetop

You can find more information at websites such as: toxic nation and


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    • pippap profile image

      pippap 2 years ago from Surrey, BC

      I believe we are educating some people. A lot of people trust products they buy in the stores without question when they really shouldn't.

    • Susan Trump profile image

      Susan Trump 2 years ago from San Diego, California

      Keep talking you wonder if we just reach people who "get" it or if you are really reaching those who need to understand? Do you have enough feedback to know?

    • pippap profile image

      pippap 2 years ago from Surrey, BC

      You are not the only one. People should be aware of what is actually in their products.

    • Susan Trump profile image

      Susan Trump 2 years ago from San Diego, California

      I thought I was the only one waging war against candles.

    • Hanna Bambina profile image

      Hanna Bambina 7 years ago

      well done and thank you!!

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      The opening windows part is telling, as so often on a cool spring day the air smells very fresh—though being in the city, the air doesn't always smell so good, and I often wonder if what's outside might actually be worse than what's inside. :)

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      A great hub. We are led to believe we are doing the best thing using candles to help the environment as a whole, but they are detrimental to our own health. Thank you for your tips. I will certainly try them out.