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The dark side of scented candles: they make the air in your home dirtier

9Coach logo 9Coach 2017-05-19 Sam Downing

Mmm yep. Fancy. © Instagram / @graceandjamescandleco Mmm yep. Fancy. Let’s be real: burning a scented candle before bedtime just feels fancy. But there’s a potential downside to that warm, flickering glow: it’s contributing to indoor air pollution in your home.

In a study published in PLOS One, researchers from San Diego State University investigated the factors contributing to indoor air pollution by installing air particle monitors in the homes of 300 families, which all had at least one child younger than 14 and one adult smoker.

For three months, the monitors scanned for particles including dust, fungal spores and combustion by-products (such as those from cooking and candle-burning) between 0.5 and 2.5 micrometers in size — teensy enough to reach deep into human lungs and bring on a range of health problems, particularly for children.

“Our primary goal was to figure out what’s happening in houses that leads to higher air particle levels and in turn, to unhealthy environments for kids,” said study co-author and graduate student John Bellettiere in a statement.

Oh-so-shockingly, cigarette smoking proved to be the biggest contributor to in-home air pollution — as did marijuana smoking, believed to be the first time such a finding has been reported. The smokers’ homes had particle levels close to double that of the homes of the non-smokers. (E-cigarettes had no effect.)

Cooking with oil was also linked to higher air particle counts (regardless of whether or not the food was burned). Somewhat ironically, the homes of the people who cleaned more — by vacuuming, dusting and sweeping — also had “dirtier” air, presumably because all that cleanliness stirs up more air particles.

Burning candles and incense was also determined to result in a “statistically significant increase” in indoor air particle counts, meaning you might have to sacrifice that romantic, sweet-scented ambience if you want the purest air possible.

Future research will look into the effects of second-hand marijuana smoke on non-smokers. Other San Diego State University scientists also specialise in researching “third-hand smoke” —the chemicals that smoking leaves behind in upholstery, carpets, curtains and clothing.

The takeaway: don’t smoke, but if you do, don’t smoke indoors. That’s gross.

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