Yankee doodle drama: Scented candles might not be all they smell up to be. According to a new experiment by the BBC, citrus-scented candles in particular can react with elements in the air when lit to produce the carcinogen formaldehyde.
Limonene, a substance that's used to give cleaning products and candles their lemony scents, is not considered unsafe on its own. But when it mixes with airborne elements, formaldehyde is sometimes formed. This known carcinogen can cause the eyes to burn, irritate the skin, incite coughing fits and nausea and, in serious cases, lead to nose and throat cancers -- though likely not at the minimal levels given off by your favorite air freshener.
To explore the hazards associated with lemony-fresh aromas, atmospheric chemistry professor Alastair Lewis of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science worked with the BBC Two series “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor” to sample the air in six modern homes in York, England over five days. Lab testing of the air samples revealed that for every two molecules of limonene released into the air, one molecule of formaldehyde was formed. Learn more about the specific findings in the video above.
If you're worried about potentially toxic air in your home, the researchers have a few suggestions. A second small experiment they conducted showed that houseplants absorbed some of the formaldehyde. They list lavender, spider fern, common guava, grub fern, squirrel's foot fern and Japanese royal fern as plants that effectively reduce airborne chemical agents.
They also recommend reducing the amount of limonene-infused products you use in your home, including air fresheners, fragranced cleaning products and, of course, scented candles, and suggest opening a window each time you light a candle.
If you're an ambiance lover who's still nervous about these findings, invest in some fragrance-free candles. Find a list of HuffPost editors' favorites here.
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