Are Scented Candles Safe?

QUESTION

I'm in my first trimester and work at Yankee Candle at the mall where we sell many scented candles. I work about 8 hours a day 6 days a week. I've worked at Yankee Candle over a year now, so I've worked here a while before my pregnancy.

I've started wondering if the scents of the candles could be bad for my baby especially since I've been here from the very start of my pregnancy. We almost never burn a candle inside but we have many different strong scents mixed together as we sell candles in a small store area.

Could this be harmful to my baby or even me as I plan to continue working and then breastfeeding once baby is born. I am worried because a friend said that fragrance is bad according to the EWG and may even be carcinogenic.

I haven't slept a wink since hearing this, so any advice would be helpful and very much appreciated. Should I quit my job for my baby's sake? Thank you so much for your time in answering my question, God bless you.

Sincerely,
Lisa

ANSWER

It is *great* that you are checking to make sure your baby is safe -- you are already being a good mom! That said, I know of no scientific studies that show that candle scents can harm the baby or you. You should be able to ask your employer for a Material Safety Data Sheet which will document the potential health hazards of the materials you come in contact with on your job. Here is an example of one I found for a scented candle on-line:

ACUTE HEALTH EFFECTS:
INHALATION: Fumes from heated paraffin wax may cause upper respiratory tract irritation with nausea. [which wouldn't apply unless the candles are lit]
Repeated or prolonged excessive exposure to paraffin wax fumes may cause difficulty breathing and lung effects.
SKIN CONTACT: May cause irritation. Molten paraffin wax may cling to skin and result in thermal burns. Repeated or prolonged excessive exposure may cause allergic dermatitis.
EYE CONTACT: High concentrations of paraffin wax fumes may cause irritation. Heated wax may burn eyes.
INGESTION: Not an anticipated route of exposure given the nature of the finished product. Nonetheless, may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Paraffin wax is not digested or absorbed and is believed to be essentially nontoxic.
CHRONIC HEALTH EFFECTS: None known.
MEDICAL CONDITIONS GENERALLY RECOGNIZED AS BEING AGGRAVATED BY EXPOSURE: None known.

Unless you are getting any of these symptoms, which is unlikely, you are fine. The critical piece of info is at the bottom where the "none known" is shown twice. So I think you can keep your job if you want!

~Cynthia

Cynthia Flynn

Cynthia Flynn, CNM. PhD, is the General Director of the Family Health and Birth Center which provides prenatal, birth, postnatal, gynecological and primary health care to underserved women and their families in Washington, D.C. Recently Cynthia served as Associate Professor of Nursing at Seattle University. There she not only taught, but remained in full scope clinical midwifery practice at Valley Medical Center where she cared for pregnant and birthing women, and practices well-woman gynecology, family planning, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Cynthia founded Columbia Women's Clinic and Birth Center, where she took care of pregnant women and infants up to two weeks of age and attended both birth center and hospital births. Before Cynthia earned her CNM, she worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and postpartum and is a certified Doula and Doula trainer.