It’s that time of year, the most glorious time of year for the senses. The sound of people bustling to get ready for the holidays, humming songs like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” the sight of our first snowfall come and gone, the taste of pumpkin in almost everything we eat and drink, the feel of cozy flannel and fleece, and the sweet seasonal smell of burning formaldehyde? Unfortunately, yes. Those beautifully (although some I think are less so) scented candles you get and give as gifts and buy to make the house smell more like home are in fact petroleum wax with ingredients often containing formaldehyde and benzene. In fact, the EPA has released an article confirming their indoor pollutant status. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you. I’m sure you’re all reading this and wondering when I’m ever going to have good news to share with you. I will, I promise, but for now: hold on to your hats, it gets worse. These candles have been confirmed as causing everything from asthma to cancer. As a matter of fact, regular burning of scented candles in low ventilation (rooms such as bathrooms) can be as bad for you as cigarette smoke.
Ok, Vicky…you win. I’ll use air fresheners to get the same effect. If that’s where your brain went, prepare to be even more disappointed. The reason that a candle holds its scent is the wax content. Ever wonder what is holding the scent in an air freshener? Probably not, but I’ll bet you are now! Phthalates. The same chemicals that are used to soften plastic are used to give your air fresheners that lingering scent. Repeated inhalation of phtalates has been shown to cause developmental and reproductive issues most especially in babies. You think I’m overreacting? The EPA has and continues to discuss de-legalizing the manufacturing of these products because of their negative health impacts.
So, now what? Scents are definite memory triggers and a big part of what makes our holiday traditions special. I understand that. I wasn’t going to leave you without options. Although any prolonged exposure to smoke is harmful to our lungs and oxygen levels, the key is moderation. On those days with friends and family gathered around, when you most especially want your house to smell like home, here are some tips.
- Have a fireplace? Go ahead and use it.
- Try REAL INCENSE. Not incense sticks. You can find Myrrh and Frankincense still today. Burning in a dish or even just left out they (not surprisingly) make a lovely and perhaps the most traditional Christmas scent.
- Hot apple cider. Keep a pot of hot apple cider with lots of cinnamon warm on the stove. Making your own is as simple as pure apple juice not from concentrate heated up with the juice of one lemon and cinnamon and clove to taste. A fantastic smell and taste!
- Love the smell of vanilla? Put a few tablespoons in an oven safe ramekin and place in the oven on low heat. The smell will start wofting through your house like the smell of fresh baked cookies without the calories.
- The best smell I can think of on a holiday is the smell of a home cooked meal. So by all means, cook away. Check out our Fit and Fast Thanksgiving menu for ideas on how prepare a fantastic, homey, delicious holiday meal and still give your family the nutrition they need.
Listen, I’m not trying to spoil your holidays. In fact, I’m trying to make them brighter by informing you of just how stinky those scented candles and air fresheners are. If you’re planning a houseful of people, don’t expose them to chemicals. Rather, celebrate with them in the warmth of a natural home. Happy Holiday Season, everyone. I am excited to share this time with all of you.
Peace and Blessings,