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Even Romance Is Bad For You Now

Wednesday, 19 Aug 2009 | 4:10 PM ET

Talk about killing the mood. Two scientists from South Carolina State University released a paper today saying that candlelit dinners create indoor air pollution.

Thanks. Just what any woman over 40 needs. Candlelight=looking good. No candlelight=harsh light of day. I vote for pollution.

Under the title, "Romantic, candle-lit dinners: An unrecognized source of indoor air pollution," R. Massoudi, Ph.D., and Amid Hamidi, Ph.D., presented their findings today to the national meeting of the American Chemical Society. They actually did extensive testing, TESTING, to reveal that lovers lingering in the glow of candles expose themselves to "known human carcinogens." And you thought you just had to worry about my cooking. Apparently the main culprit is the common paraffin wax candle, which is petroleum based. More expensive candles made of beeswax or soy are less of a problem (Aha! Financial motive!).

"This is not (a) completely new idea," the scientists report. "Indeed considerable number of reports in the literature appears regarding the adverse health effect including cancer, asthma, and contact dermatitis as a result of burning paraffin wax candles in enclosed limited areas." Cancer?

On closer examination, um, well, don't be scared. Remember the "saccharin causes cancer in rats" scare? Where male rats got sick after being given doses of the artificial sweetener equivalent to 800 cans of diet soda a day? This is kind of like that. It may take a bonfire of candles over a long period of time to matter. "An occasional paraffin candle and its emissions will not likely affect you," Hamidi reports. "But lighting many paraffin candles everyday for years or lighting them frequently in an un-ventilated bathroom around a tub, for example, may cause problems." Well, I'd better cut back on my ten-candle-a-day habit.

Perhaps most interesting, the two scientists venture beyond science and take a stab and economics and trade! "Most of the paraffin wax used in the United States is imported from overseas, whereas the soybean wax can be more readily produced inland," they write. "This can be an impetus for economic growth, sustainability, environmental stewardship, and better health for our society."

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The report has been picked up today by various publications, with a straight face. I, however, am smiling. Someone really put all this time, effort, and money to measure the effects of burning candles only to find out that you have to light up a boxful every day and close all the windows to be harmed? Is there a Bee-Soy conspiracy secretly funding a campaign of terror and fear? And just what is the American Chemical Society? I went to the main website where one of the highlighted articles is "Describing Excited States." Well, there will be fewer excited states after dinner now that the romantic glow could kill us.

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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