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28th February 1999

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Dear DaughterMarriage is not easy

My darling daughter,

You tell me that Lala is getting married soon. I am happy for her and wish her and Lalith all happiness. Now don't think I am being a wet blanket, but I often wonder what a girl's expectations are when she marries - to make her husband happy, she will say now, have a baby, create a home and be happy ever after.

But when the reality of living together touches her, she will wonder, is this the magic of love. The cleaning up, the washing, the cooking, making do on a budget that does not leave room for extras. Are all these part and parcel of the aura of love that surrounded her during that wonderful period of courtship? The joy of being together gets diminished and the routine of every day life enters the marriage, and then the question of expectation becomes important. That is why I say daughter, no girl or boy should enter into marriage without thinking seriously of what love really means. Often sexual attraction is considered the high point of a marriage. It may remain so for a couple of months, but in reality what is needed is companionship and understanding based on the desire to make each other happy. Love that seems to exist only on a physical plane like one reads in various romantic novels does not really last, when as some one remarked, 'The daily business of living intrudes into the marriage.'

So daughter, I hope your friend thinks of her expectations when she decides to marry. If her expectations are to make her young husband happy, if she sees sacrifice and commitment as part of her love, then I would say she will have a happy marriage and create a wonderful home.


Fragrant Frauds?

Research that aromatic candles release significant quantities of soot and volatile organic compounds is causing concern to consumers

By Becky Gillette

The same health-conscious homeowner who would never dream of allowing cigarette smoke inside the house might be burning aromatherapy candles with the idea that they promote a healthy, relaxing atmosphere. But burning candles could actually have the opposite effect: Scientific testing has shown candles can emit pollutants such as acetone, benzene, lead, soot and particulate matter.

Cathy Flanders of Plano, Texas, found out the hard way that candles can cause indoor air pollution. Flanders experienced a phenomenon known as "black soot deposition" after burning candles sold by a popular retailer. "Things started looking gray to me," Flanders says. "There was a dark film around electrical outlets, the refrigerator, the air conditioning vents and on plastic materials such as computer screens."

Ron Bailey, vice president of Bailey Engineering Corporation, was commissioned to investigate the Flanders' home. Testing revealed that burning aromatic candles were releasing significant quantities of soot and volatile organic compounds. The core wicks of the candles were found to be made of lead.

The Flanders aren't alone in their experience. Testing has implicated candles in a number of cases of black soot deposition in homes and student dormitories across the country. "We've had at least three people who talked about waking up at night with a black ring around the nostrils," says Bailey. "One was sleeping with a surgical mask because she had noticed the problem, and didn't know where it was coming from."

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has been receiving an increasing number of reports about black soot deposition. Dan Cautley, a research engineer with the NAHB Research Centre, says a prime suspect is the increased use of candles and other indoor combustible materials including incense, potpourri and oil lamps.

Since 7 out of 10 homes in the US burn candles on a regular basis, according to a study, this issue is extremely far-reaching and has the potential for affecting millions of homes, according to an NAHB bulletin.

According to Ken Giles, spokesman for the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), any product that is combusted indoors can create indoor air quality problems - including wood-burning stoves, fireplaces and natural gas or kerosene appliances not properly vented. Only recently have candles also become a concern. "We hear that many lower-quality candles being manufactured now produce more soot than 20 years ago," says Cautley. "This has to do with different types of waxes, aromatic oils and wick types. If the wick doesn't burn at the same rate the wax disappears, the wick will get longer and the candle will produce more soot."

Bailey notes that both domestic and imported candles are a concern. Some, but not all, of the candles implicated are scented. Other factors to pay attention to include poor candle design and use of improper materials. How the candles are used and maintained are also important. "Candles shouldn't be burned in drafts," Maryanne McDermott, executive vice president of the National Candle Association claims. "And candle wicks should be trimmed. A lot of people don't do that. The candle will burn better if wicks are trimmed to a half-inch or quarter-inch before they are burned again." She adds that candles made with beeswax burn cleaner than those made with paraffin wax, a petroleum product.


Jeffrey Schiller, founder of the International Aromatherapy and Herb Association, says a lot of deception surrounds aromatherapy products - and not just candles. In particular, essential oils - natural, botanical oils emanating odour of the plant it was derived from and commonly used in perfumes - have been left out of the mix in many aromatherapy-labelled products. "People need to check out books from the library and educate themselves," Schiller says. "I look at all of the ingredients and check for purity. So if there are any chemicals in there that I don't recognize, I don't buy the product."

Such suggestions are helpful for buying most aromatherapy products, but candlemakers aren't required to list ingredients, making it more difficult for consumers to know which candles are safe. Schiller adds that candles aren't the best way to put aromas in the air, anyhow. A diffuser or nebulizer (atomizer) is a better option, he says.

Aromatherapy sales of all types have boomed in recent years, but industry leaders say that much of what is being sold as aromatherapy doesn't contain essential oils, is adulterated or diluted, or isn't natural. "A lot of big companies are jumping on the bandwagon and saying their products are aromatherapeutic, when they're not," says Cheryl Hoard, president of the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). "They are using synthetic fragrances instead of essential oils.

As with the herbal supplement market, many of the plants used to make essential oils for aromatherapy are gathered from the wild. Issues of sustainability concerning the two most popular scents, rosewood and sandalwood, have been questioned. Mindy Green , director of educational services for the Herb Research Foundation, says some botanists have advocated not purchasing rosewood products because the tree is being decimated along the river corridors where it is harvested in Brazil. Others argue that the tree is not rare farther back in the forest. Some companies claim to be using rosewood being sustainably grown and ethically harvested.

Sandalwood faces similar problems. "Sandalwood is of concern because it takes so long to grow, and there was a big fire in 1997 in the sandalwood forests in India," Green explains. "But, again, you will find companies that say they use a small farmer using sustainable growing and ethical harvesting practices. Although many of the essential oil herbs are wild-crafted, a lot are planted each year, too. And that is what we really want to see: sustainable growing with organic farming methods."

As more and more aromatherapy products surface, consumers will be increasingly burdened with the task of deciding which are healthful and which do harm.

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