Lighting a candle when there is a blackout is perhaps one of the greatest utilities we can give to these small cylindrical pieces of wax. But if we think about what we inhale when we turn them off… utilitarianism can turn into a bitter experience.
The problem is when the candles burn, because almost everything that’s made goes into the air. Wax is made of hydrogen and carbon, and when burned, they combine with oxygen in the air to become carbon dioxide and water vapor. Most of the matter in the candle ends up being these two gases.
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And we already know that excess carbon dioxide—and water—are not safe, but at low levels, there is no problem, they are elements that we normally find in the air. As American physicist Randall Munroe wrote in The New York Times, the amount of each gas produced by a candle is small and is even comparable to what could be exhaled by another person in the room.
“Candles, in homes without tobacco smoking, are among the most powerful indoor sources of particles, followed by cooking,” said Aneta Wierzbicka, a scientist at Lund University in Sweden, who studies indoor air pollution and conducted several experiments to measure particle emissions from candle flames.
But constant exposure to these tiny particles can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Although for people who burn candles occasionally, the risk of fire is probably a greater concern than air pollution.
The truth is that if you burn a lot of candles on a daily basis, it would be a good idea to take steps to minimize exposure to airborne particles.
According to Wierzbicka, you should ensure the room is well ventilated and use clean white candles without too many additives or ingredients, since everything in the candle ends up in the air.
The scientist also mentions that you pay attention to electronic candles since in recent times they have improved a lot and at first glance, “some of them can even fool a candle expert!”.