Unless you never listen to the news, pick up a magazine, or scroll though social media, you are likely to be aware of the many environmental issues faced by our society. From global warming and acid rain to climate change and plastic pollution…and sadly, the list seems to be growing all the time.

On a more positive note, awareness is growing too, and this is an absolute MUST in the world we live in.



The problem is surely twofold. On the one hand we are watching our planet’s decline as natural resources are increasingly depleted:

“Over the last few decades, the exploitation of our planet and degradation of our environment have gone up at an alarming rate…our actions have been not in favor of protecting this planet…”

On the other hand, these changes also have an immediate effect on our own health. “Stress” is a huge factor in modern living: whilst some of this is due to factors such as work ethics and the monumental influence of technology, environmental stressors also play an increasingly large role:

“Environmental stress refers to how people or animals respond to physical, chemical and biological features of their environment. These stressors may include exposure to natural disasters, electromagnetic radiation, pollution, climate change, or noise. They can be pathogens that invade the body, causing a stress response, or features of your workplace like an uncomfortable chair. Whether one-time or long-term, environmental stressors cause strain on the body and mind.”

So surely we should be tackling this as a double-edged issue, and should be doing absolutely all that we can to protect both the future of our planet AND ourselves?




Actually listing the environmental stressors that are regularly affecting us paints a glum picture:

  • climate stress
  • air pollution
  • chemical stressors
  • plastic pollution
  • energetic stress
  • ergonomic stress
  • biological stress

CLIMATE STRESS may refer to those changes that only last for a season, or to an overall shift such as global climate change.

AIR POLLUTION is caused chiefly by the burning of fossil fuels. Pollution emitted from vehicles produces vast problems in this area.

CHEMICAL STRESSORS affect us on many different levels: the remains of pesticides found on our foods, ingestion of antibiotics, and chemicals found in cosmetics, air fresheners and cleaning products all contribute to chemical overload within our (already stressed) bodies.

PLASTIC POLLUTION is frighteningly abundant. Plastic is affordable and remarkably strong: it is a hugely prevalent, ever constant image in our “disposable” society. It is estimated that 500 billion plastic bags are used globally every year…

“whenever they are disposed, [plastics] take hundreds of years to decompose and their continued stay in the environment does great harm. When burnt, [plastic] pollutes the air, when disposed in the landfills it causes land pollution, and when dumped into the water it pollutes the waters”.

ERGONOMIC STRESS increases as our weekly working hours continue to go up. Endless hours sitting at a desk in front of a computer, over-doing manual work, too little physical exercise and bad posture all contribute.

ENERGETIC STRESS is caused by the various different wavelengths we are subjected to, from exposure to mobile telephones to use of microwave ovens…

“invisible but very real, energetic stressors can cause disturbances to the body and mind. The earth contains many different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation that travel through time and space…all of these invisible rays can have an impact on our health and well being. 

BIOLOGICAL STRESS refers to any illness or allergic reaction we may encounter. As the years go by, it seems these are increasing, from incidences of eczema to a vastly increasing list of autoimmune conditions. Could this be a result of our body trying to fight the many other environmental stressors it faces?



In a generalised conversation about the welfare of our planet, it can seem incredibly daunting to try to do ANYTHING to better the situation. The facts are grim, and can seem insurmountable…



If however we break things down, and we realise that some of the above issues in fact overlap, then we can start to explore what simple changes we might make on a day to day level…



1. Conserve energy: unplug electronic devices when you’re not using them; use warm (not hot) water for washing; use energy efficient light bulbs; consider replacing household appliances with more energy efficient models.

2. Reduce petrol pollution: walk or cycle to avoid using petrol consuming vehicles; at the very least use buses or trains to reduce petrol emissions from endless cars.

3. Avoid plastics: utilise reusable or recyclable packaging wherever possible; try (reusable) fabric bags for shopping; use paper straws; purchase a re-usable non-plastic water bottle; avoid plastic based wraps such as “Clingfilm” (which can leak toxins straight into our food). Click here for a great reusable, biodegradable, chemical-free food wrap.

4. Eat natural, organic foods as much as possible: this will reduce exposure to pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Some studies also suggest that organic foods have higher levels of omega 3 fats, antioxidants and minerals.

“Scientists theorize that when plants aren’t coated in chemicals to help fight off pests and insects, they develop stronger compounds to protect themselves”.

By ingesting these foods we too will benefit from these disease fighting compounds, and therefore be in a better position to stave off environmental stressors.

5. Check labelling for presence of (plastic) microbeads: these are typically found in shower gels, exfoliators, toothpaste, cleaning products. The tiny plastic particles:

“can have a damaging effect on marine life, the environment and human health…due to their composition, ability to absorb toxins and potential to transfer up the marine food chain”.

[It is reassuring to know that since recent revisions in the UK, legislation has banned the use of plastic microbeads in the manufacture of some cosmetic and personal care products. Click here for more]

6. Aim to use NATURAL cosmetics: always try for those which don’t include chemical “nasties”. Take a moment to consider how many cosmetics you and your family use daily to realise the true power of this one, and consider how everyone of these is absorbed into the body. Cosmetic labelling is nowhere near as well regulated as food labelling, so it can be very confusing. Click here to access a simple and reliable chart of recommended natural products.


7. Avoid chemically fragranced products: body sprays and air fresheners are often rich in chemicals. Aim instead for natural fragrances such as essential oils, which actually provide health benefits. Also be aware of scented candles, some of which:

“produce smoke laced with almost as many toxins as those produced by cigarettes”.

Click here to learn more about the potential health risks connected to candles.

8. Consciously reduce “screen time” for all the family: aside from the impact on our mental health, theories on “energetic stress” are increasingly worrying. Studies suggest that constant exposure to the radio-frequency waves emitted by mobile phone radiation may be hugely detrimental to our health. Click here for my own Top Tips to Detox from Tech.

9. Think posture, posture, posture: aside from creating muscular aches and pains, postural mal-alignment can be detrimental to digestion and respiration, and can even enhance chances of cardiovascular disease.

10. Let nature be your doctor: taking care of both physical and mental health by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and putting in place those stress management techniques which are relevant to you will minimise the need for (often chemically laden) antibiotics and medicines as you allow your body to live as it is supposed to.



In terms of our own health, this last one is perhaps the most important message. The closer we adhere to the sort of life we were designed to live, the more able we will be to deal with those toxins that do creep in. Our bodies are meant to be constantly “detox”–ing, but in today’s society – where the overload of chemical stressors is rising day by day – our organs often don’t operate as efficiently as they should, and so struggle to rid themselves of these toxic substances.

Meanwhile, in terms of the wider issue of our planet, isn’t it time to sit back and take a good look at ourselves and the world we live in – the world we are creating for our children and grandchildren? By selecting  just one of the above pollutants, we can see the sheer enormity of the problem. Plastic waste is choking our oceans and is releasing toxic chemicals into our soil and into our air. Wildlife on both sea and land are affected by this constant flow of pollution from a vast array of plastic materials that many of us use daily: by default, we – and our children –  are suffering too.

There are so, so many small ways in which we can help, and even if each of those makes just a tiny difference, we have to hang on to the hope that a small effort from each and every one of us on this beautiful planet will be the start point for saving both the planet and ourselves.


DO YOU LOVE CANDLES? Why sitting surrounded by calming candles may NOT be the best stress reliever..

DO YOU LOVE CANDLES? Why sitting surrounded by calming candles may NOT be the best stress reliever..

Picture the scene: lighting a few of your favourite #candles and then sitting with a well-loved book or magazine, or listening to some relaxing music. Such a perfect way to chill and de-stress! Those candles give off such a warming glow, which in itself is relaxing – quite mesmerising in fact – and the scented ones smell so fabulous too!

So what if I were to tell you that rather than de-stressing by sitting amongst those candles, you may actually be “upping” your stressors…how would you feel? Probably stressed!! I certainly did…



I was sitting at home one Saturday evening, waiting for a friend to pop by for a glass of fizz. The kids were in bed and (finally!) settled, and I’d lit a selection of different coloured candles and arranged them in height order in my fireplace: in spite of being simple, cheap candles they looked so lovely! And I just loved that smell of vanilla… I remember tuning the radio in to something soothing and looking forward to a chilled evening of catching up.

The doorbell went and in came my friend (also Liz): I poured us each a glass of bubbles before leading her into the ‘chill zone’ of my little sitting room. Suddenly, we are anything but chilled!

“What on earth are you doing?” exclaimed Liz.
“Whatever do you mean?” I replied, laughing.
“Those candles!! Do you want to create a gas chamber for yourself??”


I should perhaps explain at this point that I was still undergoing treatment for a lung condition, hence the strength of Liz’s reaction! For my part, I felt incredibly silly for the fact that this was something that had honestly never occurred to me. In spite of preaching for years about the importance of what we put into our bodies in terms of our nutrition, I just hadn’t considered the importance of what we breathe in to our lungs – in spite of my own health condition!


Research indicates that some scented candles “produce smoke laced with almost as many toxins as those produced by cigarettes”: surely then this is something we should ALL be aware of? Few of us allow cigarette smoke indoors in today’s day and age – instead we ask smokers to go outside where the smoke fumes will at least be free to dissipate. And yet we light candles in small rooms, and then shut the door to better enjoy the scent! With little ventilation, we are fully exposed to this potent form of indoor pollution.

The fact is that we need to educate ourselves as to what is actually contained within our candles: we should be “reading the label” just as we do in our food products. (There is actually CLP legislation covering what must be included on candle labelling, though admittedly this is mostly concerned with fragrances and dyes, and not with the wax itself).
So what exactly is it that we should be careful about?



The majority of candles are made from PARAFFIN. This is the final by-product created when petroleum is refined (is that really what you want to be inhaling for your stress management??) Burning paraffin releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as toluene and benzene (both known carcinogens). Short term exposure can cause irritation to eyes and to breathing; long term exposure meanwhile can lead to more serious health problems, and can certainly exacerbate complaints such as asthma and eczema.

  1. Candle wicks are typically made of braided cotton, but metals are often added to make the wick stand up straighter. Until more recently many scented candles contained LEAD within the wick: a “dangerous heavy metal”, considered to be especially detrimental to children’s health. (Back in 1999, a study produced by the University of Michigan found that approximately 30% of scented candles released lead into the air). It is now claimed that candles made in the UK and the USA rarely use lead wicks, HOWEVER there are endless cheap brands on the market imported from China and Hong Kong where there are no such promises… By far the safest way forwards is to only purchase candles which advertise that they are lead free.
  2. The SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES within candles are often derived from petroleum: possible effects range from allergic reactions to hormone disruption to birth defects… Bear in mind also that those candles that are most fragranced produce more soot, and release more dangerous toxins when burning. Soot can be inhaled when it escapes into the air, and its particles are so tiny that they can permeate deep into the lungs…
  3. SYNTHETIC COLOURING is the final consideration. Pigments used are varied, but in most cases “synthetic dyes will give off some unsafe particles on burning”.


So the good news is that we can still enjoy candles, but – much as with our nutrition & cosmetics – we do need to genuinely know what each candle contains, and to enjoy healthy candles you will probably need to spend a little more money. So, which candles should we be buying?


  1. Soy candles avoid the health risks discussed above (though this brings up the GM question, and hence environmental pollution and other health related issues).
  2. 100% beeswax candles (which have the added bonus of emitting negative ions, and therefore actually purifying air quality!) are a great option. They are also hypo-allergenic, and have a much longer burning time than paraffin candles, and rarely drip.
  3. More and more natural candle alternatives are appearing. A recent discovery is a coconut and apricot wax blend…keep your eyes peeled for more!
  4. In terms of scents, candles which use essential oils are natural and avoid all the dangers of synthetic fragrances, whilst also offering benefits to both physical and mental health for those who believe in the benefits of aromatherapy.
  5. Creating natural colour for candles is more difficult, but certain herbs and spices do work well…



So, the final answer is that yes, you can enjoy your candles. But please, please do stop and think, do the research and ask, ask, ask, rather than relying entirely on labelling which is often less than helpful. If you choose carefully, candles can in fact enhance your health. Only by making considered and informed choices will you be able to create that “chill zone” you picture, complete with flickering flames and sweet-smelling scents.

I still think of my friend Liz every time I light a (natural) candle…and am so grateful for her “gas chamber comment” – even if it did scare the life out of me at the time!!

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