20 August 2009

Candles "linked to cancer"

South Carolina State University experts analysed the fumes released by burning candles in lab tests. They found paraffin wax candles gave off harmful fumes linked to lung cancer and asthma - but admitted it would take many years' use to risk health...
It's very possible the cited study is scientifically valid, but the endless proliferation of "xyz causes cancer" blurbs in the press I think must eventually inure the public to the serious carcinogenic risks in the world. When people are given the impression that everything causes cancer or everything causes heart disease, they may eventually consider the situation hopeless and give up on following proper health habits.

Photo credit for Hogwarts candles.


  1. What I find amazing in this kind of studies is the fact that the scientists often don't take other parameters into account. They focus on one thing, and forget about the rest. Like an habit could be isolated from the rest of our life. For instance, they say too much coffee causes whatsoever disease. But they don't link it to the fact that people drinking a lot of coffee might also eat a lot of junk food, or be highly stressed, or not doing enough exercise whatsoever. Same for this study.
    Anyhow, everyone has to die of something. Sure, a long time ago, there weren't as many cancers, but people died much younger, there were terrible disease such as plague, typhus, cholera.
    I may not have the healthiest habits, but at least I enjoy life a little. If we were to listen to all the experts, we would be living in a bubble.

  2. As a cancer researcher I can say that most cancer researchers would not recommend bubble life. The truth is that everything causes cancer from sunshine to breathing. They don't link the actual paper so it is impossible to say what their conclusions actually are. The problem is that you always get these types of articles because news is slow and it sounds sensational. We have no idea who this researcher is or what his reputation is. Where was the paper published? Is it published? In a peer reviewed journal? With a good reputation? We have no idea what the chemicals are. How were they measured? What is their natural concentration? Is there a much larger and more prevalent source? Its just a crap article.

    There are certainly things you can do to lower cancer risks and chemicals that are well researched like BPA but even with that most of the really solid data is in mice so it is unclear whether humans have similar susceptibilities. The mysterious, unnamed "chemicals" in paraffin candles could be dangerous but one scientist with one (possible) publication isn't going to demonstrate anything. The BBC should be ashamed of itself for such moronic reporting.

  3. It may be even worse than that. Just now I did a quick search for the primary data, and it appears to be just from a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. Anyone who's ever listened to presentations or walked through poster rooms knows that the peer review for meeting presentations is very soft or nonexistent.

    It's also possible this study was funded by some company that sells non-paraffin (beeswax etc) candles.

  4. Blue Cheese RocketAugust 20, 2009 at 8:54 PM

    I'm sorry, I can't resist the temptation to put up this link:


  5. I'll give you my Glade scented candles when you take them from my cold, dead hands.


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