Forget Kyoto ­ scented candles are America's new environmental fear

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The Independent US

The American obsession with health may have snatched away one of the few antidotes to stress-filled modern living.

Scented candles, as fundamental to New Age relaxation as Feng Shui and yoga, could be exposing users to illegal levels of pollution, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA released research yesterday showing that burning nine candles in one room would lead to higher levels of pollutants than would be legal outdoors. Scented candles were even worse ­ they emitted more black soot containing particulates, which have been linked to breathing problems.

Some candles bought in America were also found to have wicks containing lead, which is routinely removed from petrol in the West because it can cause brain damage in young children.

The agency warned against the over-enthusiastic use of scented candles, no matter how relaxing their smell proved.

Michael Osborne, a spokesman for the EPA, said: "If I were someone who had a health problem like asthma, and I were looking for things to prevent aggravating respiratory problems, candles and incense are two things I would seriously consider."

The findings were rejected by the American National Candle Association and met short shrift from candle makers in Britain.

David Constable, owner of Candlemakers Supplies in west Kensington, London, said: "The Americans are paranoid. Burning anything is going to put pollution in the air. I would say that [the research] must have been done by someone really jumpy.

"If you think that Bush is saying global warming is not proved and the others are saying don't burn candles it doesn't add up. Diesel and petrol are the worse by far."

Mr Constable, who has been making candles since 1969 and supplies the Prince of Wales, said smoke from candles could easily be kept down by trimming the wick and snuffing them out. "The real danger is people who don't know how to use them and set their house on fire," he said.

The Environment Agency said there were no British legal controls on pollution levels indoors. All candle smoke gave off a certain amount of pollution, the agency added.