Autumn is definitely here and fall season is in full swing — officially. I have been loving seeing the fall displays on my neighbor’s porches and watching the trees change a little bit more every day. The smell of baking often fills the house and when it doesn’t I do my best to recreate it. Unfortunately fall in the Midwest often means closing up the windows and turning the heat back on for the long winter ahead. While it makes my house feel extra cozy and I truly enjoy turning on the oven instead of grilling out for a change, it also means my house gets stuffy and the air becomes less pure.
Fall is when we break out the candles, fall scented wax melts and other means to create a cozy and welcoming home. These synthetic fragrances along with closed up windows and doors can cause more than just stuffy air, but air that’s actually more polluted than the outdoor air. The great thing is that just by knowing your house can potentially have more toxins in it than outdoor air, you’re one step ahead of most.
Once you know the truth about indoor air, the next part is taking the simple steps to change it. And fall is one of the best times to make the change as it’s when our homes get closed up for the year. The first and simplest step I recommend to my clients is to ditch any synthetic fragrance. This is often one of the easiest things to give up and one of the easiest things to change.
If you get excited about the fall scents in the candle aisle at Target — then this post is especially for you. I’m excited to share with you how you can make your home healthier with just this simple change.
I too was once a candle connoisseur and burned pumpkin pie scents like nobody’s business. I had them in the bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms. Fall scented candles were everywhere. I loved their scent and I loved their cozy aroma. I would walk down Target’s aisles and take my sweet time deciding on what fragrance to bring home. I clipped those Glade candle coupons and felt so proud of myself for getting a deal.
But, I wasn’t getting a deal. I was getting a house filled with various toxins and essentially air as polluted as a home with second hand smoke.
Candles are typically created with synthetic and artificial fragrances. These fragrances are actually added, not as just a sales tactic, but also to cover up the harsh chemical smell from the ingredients in the candle. We’ve been told to believe that candles are just wax, and are completely safe. But truly this isn’t the case at all. Candles are made of paraffin wax, which is a byproduct of crude oil being turned to gasoline. Paraffin wax emits benzine and toulene, which are petroleum byproducts
Can you imagine bringing this into your house? These petroleum byproducts are masked by lovely scents. What we’re not always being told is that these ingredients have been linked to lung cancer, brain disorders and central nervous system disorders.
In addition to paraffin wax, a secondary problem is the wicks in candles. Wicks are supposed to be made of mostly cotton and natural products, however quite often these wicks are made with heavy metals to make them stronger and firmer. These heavy metals can include lead — which when burned emits five times more than what is deemed safe for children.
Room sprays are advertised as a way to remove odors from your home, but truly they are just an odor masking technique. Ever notice that room sprays don’t have a list of ingredients? This should be a huge red flag when we’re looking at the safety and health of our home products. Products that list “fragrance” or parfume” are the products that are not legally obligated to share their chemical concoction.
Aerosol cans of room spray are even worse as they use butane and propane to propel the spray into the air. These aerosole sprays are so strong they penetrate lung tissue when inhaled and stay in the air as molecules even longer than regular sprays.
The chemicals used in room sprays include phthalates, which are known hormone disruptors. This man made chemical negatively affects the onset of puberty, reproductive organs, thyroid function and increased risk for childhood obesity. Sprays also contain formaldehyde, which is added to create an extra long shelf life of these products. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and bronchial irritant, negatively affecting our indoor air.
What’s even more dangerous with sprays is that the product travels through the air and lands on surfaces we don’t intend it to. The over-spray can become problematic as it adheres to surfaces we eat off of, toys and furniture we sit on. These chemicals have been found in house dust and tend to stay in our air and environment for a long period of time.
I very clearly remember when wax melts started entering the store shelves. I was hooked. I had my plug in wax warmer and bought a variety of different melts to use at home. I felt like these were much more safe compared to sprays and fresheners. I applauded myself for using something so natural. But I was oh-so-wrong. Wax melts are just about as bad as scented candles, but again, not being disclosed to us as consumers at all.
Wax melts also use paraffin wax as a base and main ingredient. Paraffin wax negatively affects our health just as any pretroleum byproduct would. We know that the emitants from this base negatively affect our lungs first and foremost, but also impact our brain and central nervous system. Wax melts often contain ethers and benzene, which have both been shown to increase the risk of cancer in lab tests. The nervous system and neurological system can also be affected, causing disorders in these areas by these two additives.
On top of all this, wax melts add artificial and unnatural scents to cover up the toxins in them. These scents cause an allergic response from many children and adults and cause irritation at least. The fragrances often stick around for long periods of time and become embedded into upholstery and fabrics, causing long term exposure.
Plug ins have recently gotten a lot of bad press, and rightly so. These little devices are made with tons of synthetic fragrances and man-made chemicals. They are plugged in and constantly emitting these chemicals and toxins into the air. This type of constant creates a bigger problem our bodies accumulate the toxins over time.
As with any toxin, single exposure often times does not affect our body negatively long term. The problem with these toxins is the constant exposure and constant contact we have with them. As the toxins build up in our bodies, we become burdened and very present in our bloodstream and organs.
Our delicate internal systems are not allowed a reprieve from these chemicals, especially when they are being emitted constantly throughout our home. This is the most dangerous part of chemicals and toxins as we are now learning.
Plug ins also respond to heat with a specially formulated gel that contains napthalene, a chemical that greatly increases the risk of lung cancer.
Simple & Healthy Alternatives
Essential Oils are the safest and healthiest alternatives to these harmful scented products. Essential Oils are basically super concentrated plants and herbs. Just one drop of these can go an extremely long way. They add no harmful chemicals to your air or home and allow your home’s air quality to remain healthy.
What’s even more is that essential oils actually have benefits besides not adding harsh chemicals to your air. These benefits include:
- Emotional Support
- Air Purifying Properties
- Supports a Healthy Immune Function
- Natural Odor Removal
- Hormone Balancing Improvements
Below are some of my favorite fall scent combinations for my diffuser.
Other Tricks for Healthy Indoor Air
Besides essential oils and diffusers to replace toxic synthetic sprays and candles, I like to use a few other tactics to keep my air at home as clean and pure as possible.
- Open windows often (especially when cooking or bathing if possible)
- Change HVAC filters every 6 months
- Add a few drops of Lavender Essential Oil to a disposable furnace filter for constant fresh scents
- Use vented fans when creating moisture from cooking or bathing
- Make sure laundry products are unscented to avoid adding artificial fragrances to your home