Where does a candle go when it burns, anyway? Is it wholesome to be inhaling melted candle particles? How involved ought to I be?
— Abigail B., Washington, D.C.
When candles burn, most of their matter goes into the air.
The gentle and warmth from a candle comes from the wax burning. When you gentle the wick, the flame causes among the wax to soften, movement up the wick and evaporate, after which the wax vapor burns. The wick, which is made from cotton, additionally burns, though it’s the wax that contributes many of the warmth. The puddles you generally see across the base are from wax that spilled and dripped down with out burning.
Wax is made from hydrogen and carbon. When a candle burns, the hydrogen and carbon from the wax mix with the oxygen within the air to turn out to be carbon dioxide and water vapor. Most of the matter within the candle finally ends up as these two gases.
Carbon dioxide and water aren’t precisely protected — an excessive amount of of both could be extraordinarily harmful, as anybody who’s been on a submarine can inform you — however at low ranges they’re regular elements of the air. The quantity of every gasoline produced by a candle is small — corresponding to the quantity that may be breathed out by one other particular person within the room.
If candles burned fully, each molecule from the wax would find yourself combining with oxygen to turn out to be CO₂ or water vapor, however candles don’t burn completely. Around the perimeters of the flame, clumps of carbon molecules — possibly 0.1 % of the mass of the candle — are flung away earlier than they end burning, kind of like bits of meals sprayed out by a kitchen mixer. These particles contribute to smoke and soot.
Aneta Wierzbicka, a scientist at Lund University in Sweden who research indoor air air pollution, has carried out numerous experiments to measure particle emissions from candle flames. “Candles, in homes without tobacco smoking, are among the most powerful indoor sources of particles, followed by cooking,” she informed me.
She mentioned that fixed publicity to those tiny particles can result in cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. For individuals who burn candles often, the fireplace hazards are in all probability a much bigger concern than the air air pollution. But she mentioned that if individuals burn loads of candles each day, it’s value taking steps to attenuate publicity to airborne particles. She suggests ensuring the room is well-ventilated, and utilizing clear, white candles with out too many components or substances, since every thing within the candle results in the air. (She additionally mentions that digital candles have gotten fairly good just lately — at first look, a few of them may even idiot a candle skilled!)
As a candle burns, the CO₂ and water vapor it produces will cool and blend into the air within the room, turning into indistinguishable from every other molecule of CO₂ or water. Over the following few hours, because the air in your room is exchanged with the air open air, the molecules out of your candle will escape the room and start to disperse into the ambiance. After a couple of yr, atoms out of your candle may have unfold fully across the globe.
For the following few years, each time somebody takes a breath of air, they’ll be inhaling just a few carbon atoms from the wax and some oxygen atoms from the air in your room.