Now that South Texas has settled into its Winter “routine” folks who’ve moved here from out-of-state are astonished that the “cold season” can cycle on and off so quickly. San Antonians have always said that rodeo season weather is unpredictable and strap themselves in for the ride!
Nevertheless, Winter for many of us means spending more time inside than we normally do. Whether your family is escaping the cold or you’re back in the office environment, extended time is spent indoors. HVAC systems working to control temperature don’t operate as frequently to circulate air, yet the desire to control indoor odors remains.
One of the options available to businesses and homeowners are scented candles. Candles appeal to many for the visual warmth they bring inside with the flicker of flame. Additionally, there are dozens of candle manufacturers with a wide variety of scent options. Whether your favorite scents are “spring rain”, “deep forest” or “chocolate chip cookies” the wide variety of odorants seems limitless! But let’s take a closer look at the physics and chemistry taking place during their use.
The alluring candle flame is the combustion of wick, candle wax and chemical odorant. If you think that a combustion process is super-efficient think again. If you’ve ever smelled diesel or gasoline engine exhaust, you know very well how inefficient combustion can be. In fact, when flammables (wick/wax/chemical odorants) catch on fire they discharge a wide variety of particles including soot, char, and ash, as well as chemical products and by-products. You may imagine that many of these particles are visible and, indeed they are. Try holding a bright flashlight with the beam angled through the air above a burning scented candle. There, you’ll find smoke which contains visible char and ash! But many of the particles like soot and chemicals are far too small to be seen. Whether visible or invisible, scented candle combustion by products can become an environmental stressor to the human immune and respiratory systems. Depending on the individual, some responses can be adverse.
So, the next time, you’re choosing indoor odor control options, think about the indoor environment and how something as innocent as a scented candle can become an air pollutant source. For those who still want to bring the ambience of a flickering flame indoors, there are unscented battery-operated candles.