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Romantic tips: Turn down the lights, turn up the air purifier

Is an air purifier part of a romantic setting? Probably not the way you imagine. How about a little benzene, toluene or soot? If you are burning candles to help set a romantic mood indoors, you may be breathing not-so-romantic volatile organic chemicals and even toxic metals the candles are releasing into the air. So for a romantic evening that includes candles, turn down the lights but turn up the air purifier. When it comes to indoor air quality, those lavender-scented candles you brought home from the mall may not be so romantic after all.

Burning candles made from paraffin wax –– commonly used for romantic ambiance, warmth, light and fragrance –– is a source of significant exposure to indoor air pollution, according to a study conducted by two chemists at South Carolina State University. The scientists said candles made from bee’s wax or soy are a healthier choice than those made from paraffin candles, which are made from petroleum. “An occasional paraffin candle and its emissions will not likely affect you,” the researchers told the American Chemical Society. “But lighting many paraffin candles every day for years or lighting them frequently in an unventilated bathroom around a tub, for example, may cause problems.”

For those still intent on burning candles, there is help. “One solution to help you happily coexist with candles is to purify your indoor air with an air purifier,” advises air purifier retailer Sylvane.com. The American Lung Association also recommends high-performance vacuums and furnace filters serving as air purifiers in homes where candles are sometimes burned. Other advice from the American Lung Association: Don’t burn candles that use additives for scent or for slower burning. Trim candle wicks to one-quarter of an inch to reduce soot. And always check wicks closely to see if the core of the wick is metal.

The most dangerous of the metal-core wicks are those using a thin core of lead, which can be released into the air by burning. North American candle makers quit using lead in wicks years ago. Most metal-cored wicks produced today in the United States use zinc or tin. However, 3 percent of candles available for purchase in the United States do contain unsafe levels of lead, according to testing conducted by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. So it’s important to look closely. Inspect your candles. If you see a wire core, contact the manufacturer of the candle and ask them if they use lead cored wicks in the products. Advice fromwww.candles.org:“If you are unable to get an answer from the manufacturer, play it safe and DO NOT BURN YOUR CANDLE.”

The candle making industry, meanwhile, isn’t convinced that candles represent an air-quality danger, air purifier or no air purifier. One scientist with Blyth Incorporated, a candle-making company based in Illinois, told MSNBC that tests conducted in Germany found no benzene in paraffin candles, and that levels of other toxic chemicals were far below levels of public safety concern.

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