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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning by Candle Email Warning

Email warns that burning candles in an air-conditioned room can lead to death from carbon monoxide poisoning(Full commentary below.)


Example:(Submitted, 2004)
Never light candles in air-cond. room

For those who sleep in air-conditioned rooms... A friend of mine has passed away recently, please read the mail below and be careful.

Heard of a bad news regarding Charlene, who studied in MSMKL with some of us. She passed away last weekend due to carbon monoxide poisoning. It happened when she lit an aromatheraputic candle for the night in a room with air-conditioning on and all windows closed. Due to lack of oxygen in the room, the burning of the candle cannot fully oxidize & thus forming dangerous carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide will prevent oxygen exchange in the lungs, resulting the person dozing off to state of unconsciousness & eventual lay death in less than 1 hour, depending on the room size. I am sending this e-mail out to all of you so that you will be aware of such danger when lighting aromatheraputic candles in any unventilated rooms.

Please forward this email to all your love ones.

This warning email claims that a person named "Charlene" died of carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of burning candles in an air-conditioned room. Unfortunately, like most emails of this nature, it does not provide any checkable details. At this point, I have not been able to establish if "Charlene" died in the manner described or even verify if she is a real person. The place mentioned in the email, MSMKL, is a college in Kuala Lumpur.

It should be noted that candles do produce carbon monoxide and that significant exposure to carbon monoxide can cause serious illness or death. Any device that burns fuel can produce carbon monoxide. Indeed, many people die every year as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. However, as yet, I have not come across any reports of people dying from CM poisoning purely as a result of burning candles. Perhaps, if a room was very tightly sealed then it might be possible for a person to be overcome by carbon monoxide produced by candles, especially if there were a number of candles burning together. Certainly, such a room could be potentially unsafe, not only from the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning but also from the risk of fire. Also, there are possible health risks associated with exposure to soot produced by burning candles.

The underlying message in the email is valid. It is unwise to use candles or any other device that burns combustible fuel in a poorly ventilated room. It would be especially foolish to leave candles burning while you slept.


Write-up by Brett M.Christensen