You may think that the air in your home is clean, but it’s actually way more polluted than you realize.
When you think of pollution, the first thing that may come to mind is smog or gasoline, but the air in your home can be many times more polluted than the air outside. It’s common knowledge that good indoor air quality is incredibly important for your health. To achieve clean air, people may purchase air purifiers or even display air-purifying plants, but few understand what contributes to poor air quality in their homes. Today we’re going to explore three major contributors that pollute indoor air: candles, air fresheners, and fragrance plug-ins.
According to science, there are many factors such as pet dander, bacteria, and viruses, building products like paint or carpeting, cleaning supplies found in your home kitchen cabinet, household chemicals from things you use on a daily basis for various tasks (think laundry detergent!), dust particles collecting over time due to regular wear-and-tear throughout our homes day after day (like this pesky cobweb I just noticed while standing here) water damage which can lead to mold growth and secondhand smoke fumes left by smokers who have been lounging around near doors. Not to mention toxins that leach from household furniture like formaldehyde and lead.
Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs for short, are also a major source of indoor air pollution. You don't need to be an expert in chemistry to know that many common household items emit Volatile Organic Compounds; the list includes candles and fragrance plug-ins from your local grocery store!
These gases are released into the air when you use certain products. They evaporate readily at room temperature, so they can quickly become part of the air that you breathe. Breathing VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, can cause difficulty breathing and nausea, and can damage the central nervous system and other organs. Some VOCs can even cause cancer.
Although candles, scented oils, air fresheners, and other perfumed items are a great way to make your home smell like the forest or tropical paradise you always wanted it to be,how often do we stop thinking about what those smells might actually consist of?
Of course, companies won’t say because they want them to remain trade secrets but studies show that many supposedly “natural” fragrances when you burn candles, spray your pillows, or even plug in an air freshener, are accompanied by VOCs that are polluting your air. The terms “fragrance” or “perfume” are used as placeholders on products for a wide range of VOCs and other toxic chemicals.
A survey of selected scented consumer goods showed many products emitted more than 100 VOCs, including some that are classified as toxic or hazardous by federal laws.
This leaves us, as consumers, in a position where we’re forced to do more research to protect our health. The Environmental Working Group, to empower consumers, has rated 307 air fresheners, including sprays and plug-ins. Over 77% of those products were rated a D or an F. This should be worrisome and shocking, as any exposure to these VOCs can negatively affect your health.
Instead of paraffin or petroleum-derived wax candles (which additionally release chemicals into the air when burned), opt for all-natural beeswax candles. Beeswax is the purest and most natural of all waxes and acts as a natural air purifier! Fair warning, a lot of companies are greenwashing their candles, so be sure to read the ingredients. A beeswax candle should have one ingredient: beeswax!
Instead of sprays and fragrance plugins, opt for diffusing high-quality essential oils. Essential oils capture the “essence” of a plant through distillation or mechanical pressing. Essentially, these oils are concentrated extracts that retain, and even magnify, the fragrance and effect of their source. Ensure you’re purchasing from a reputable company, as many essential oils on the market are fake and made from the same chemical fragrances we’re trying to avoid. If you’re interested in learning more about sourcing high-quality essential oils, Plant Therapy is a great resource!
Ensuring your home is a safe and non-toxic space that promotes health is incredibly important. Small swaps, like the type of candles you burn or scents you spray, can be a significant step on your journey to living a more holistic and non-toxic life!