I was recently visiting a friend who was cleaning out her kitchen cupboards. It’s a bit too early for “spring cleaning” here in the Midwest, but she likes to thoroughly clean right after the holidays. She says it’s a “New Year” kind of thing – out with the old and in with the new.
As I was sitting there, chatting away and drinking my tea, I noticed that my nose started to itch. Actually, it started to burn a little bit and my eyes were tearing up. I asked her if she’d gotten any new pets she’d forgotten to tell me about and she assured me that she hadn’t. So, what could be causing this crazy reaction?
When I got up to investigate what she was doing, I discovered the culprit: candles (lots and lots of candles). Thankfully, she was getting rid of almost all of them. She had burned each of them a few times, gotten bored with them, and was ready to pitch them. But sadly, that didn’t mean she had seen the error of her ways. In fact, she was just making room for more candles. This is a woman who loves her fragrances.
In fact, it seems as though America is obsessed with fragrance. Not only do we spend a fortune on perfumes, scented body washes and splashes (what does that even mean?), after shaves and the like, but we want all different types of fragrances throughout our homes as well. We can decide if we want to smell “banana bread”, an “ocean breeze”, or maybe a meadow “after the rain”. Our moods are supposed to be transformed and our home environments enhanced by the scent of “warm vanilla”, or “crisp, clean linen”, or a “deep forest”.
According to Care2.com, Americans will spend more than $1.7 billion on air fresheners this year! Do you know how many Toyota Prius cars we could buy with that money? And don’t these consumers understand that the “warm vanilla” smell has absolutely nothing to do with vanilla? How does one put an “ocean breeze” into a can anyway?
Sadly, air fresheners and candles are now being marketed to kids, who are most susceptible to their dangers. Do you know what’s in your air freshener? This is just a partial list: acetone (a de-greaser that is actually flammable); benzyl acetate which has been linked to pancreatic cancer; benzaldehyde which can cause lesions; and benzyl alcohol, which suppresses the central nervous system.
Also prevalent in these air fresheners are phthalates. In a university study, babies who were exposed to phthalates had a higher incidence of diarrhea and ear infections. Their mothers had a higher incidence of headaches and depression. These phthalates can cause hormonal issues and even wreak havoc on the reproductive systems. How good does the “mountain breeze” smell now?
I learned that most candles on the market today are made of paraffin. Now, I want you to imagine a large drum from a refinery. Extract all the oil from that barrel. Then, scrape the very bottom of the barrel – where the sludge is. That sludge is, you guessed it, paraffin!
The soot created from burning what essentially is diesel fuel, creates neurotoxins, reproductive toxins and carcinogens. It hardly seems worth it.
So I had a “heart to heart” with my friend and offered a few different options. If she wanted her home to smell like “banana bread”, why not just bake some. I suggested she open the windows every single day (even if it’s raining and even if it’s 0 degrees). This would let fresh air in and toxic indoor air out. An open box of baking soda will absorb less than pleasant odors and some house plants will create cleaner air indoors.
I also suggested that when cleaning, better to stay away from cleaning products like Pine-Sol, which I can guarantee has nothing to do with real pine. Personally, I use products that contain food grade ingredients and no toxins and my home just smells….clean.
I don’t know if she’ll give up candles altogether. I can only hope. But now, instead of rushing to the candle store for an “ocean breeze” scent, she’s considering going on vacation to get the real thing – which sounds like a great idea during a Midwest winter!