As a parent, you will go to great lengths to try to keep your children safe, happy and healthy. However, every now and then we discover a hidden risk lurking within the walls of our own home.

Just ask New Jersey mother Meghan Budden. As a new mom, she had done her research – carefully assessing any potential risks in her home in her efforts to baby proof. We’re all aware of the more obvious risks, covering open electrical sockets and moving household chemicals into lockable cupboards, for example. However, she soon discovered that she was overlooking a fairly common danger that so few of us are even aware of.

While nursing young Jimmy one day, Budden discovered small black specks on the inside of her son’s nose. Unsure what may have caused the specks, she cleaned his nose up, only to notice that they were back again shortly thereafter. This led her to examine all of the possible causes in her home. What did she discover? The small black marks within her son’s nose were actually soot from her favorite scented candles.

Most people don’t realize that scented candles are not designed for ongoing use. In fact, in looking closer at the candle’s packaging, Budden discovered a warning in fine print: “Do not burn more than three hours at a time.”

Recognizing that she’s likely not the only one that was unaware of the risks associated with the use of scented candles, Budden decided to reach out to the local media in order to share her warning. Her warning was quickly picked up by other members of the media, going viral across the country.

The black marks that Budden discovered were actually soot, which is released into the air from prolonged burning. This is one of the reasons why experts recommend trimming the wick of the candle before every use. This will reduce the amount of the burned wick that is present, cutting back on the soot being released into the air, while also avoiding dripping and uneven burning.

Soot from the wick may not be the only risk to your air quality, however. Studies reveal that scented candles, aerosols, plug-ins, gels, and incense sticks may all have an incredibly negative impact on the air in our home. The reason? In order to create the various assortment of scents available, many candle makers use a variety of different chemicals. When these chemicals are released, we then breathe in this indoor air pollution which can have a damaging impact on our health.

A 2001 study conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that candles with higher levels of fragrances statistically produce more soot in the air. At the same time, organic compounds within the candles themselves have been associated with an increased risk of cancer. Meanwhile, a 2009 study conducted by a team of researchers out of South Carolina discovered ‘undesired chemicals’ when burning paraffin candles.

“For a person who lights a candle every day for years or just uses them frequently, inhalation of these dangerous pollutants drifting in the air could contribute to the development of health risks like cancer, common allergies, and even asthma,” warned chemistry professor and lead author of the 2009 study, Dr. Ruhullah Massoudi.

The next time you plan on lighting up a scented candle, you may want to think twice! After all, is it worth risking your health just to enjoy a nice fragrance?

Image via World of Moms

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