Don't Let These 'Gerontogens' Trigger Accelerated Aging

That scented candle you love so much might just become your enemy when you realize how it’s aging you.

May 30, 2014

Gerontogens are probably something you encounter every day, but if you don't start avoiding them, scientists say you're in for some unpleasant accelerated aging.

Researchers from Trends in Molecular Medicine have discovered several probable "gerontogens," environmental factors that speed up the aging process. And get this? Their findings suggest burning scented candles could actually be making you older, thanks to the toxic benzene many emit.


The study examined how exposure to various environmental factors like as benzene (found in things like gasoline and scented candles), cigarette smoke, and stress affect aging by widening the gap between one's chronological age, determined by birth date, and one's biological age of the body and its cells.

"We believe just as an understanding of carcinogens has informed cancer biology, so will an understanding of gerontogens benefit the study of aging," says Norman Sharpless, MD, professor of medicine and genetics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. "By identifying and avoiding gerontogens, we will be able to influence aging and life expectancy at a public health level."

Environmental toxins surround us each day. It's time to start understanding where they come from and how to avoid them!

3 Major Gerontogens
1. Benzene
Most scented candles are made with paraffin wax and scented with synthetic fragrances, both of which are derived from petroleum. By burning paraffin wax or scented soy wax candles inside of a house, various cancer-causing, age-accelerating chemicals like benzene and toluene are released. Toxic candle soot can linger for extended periods of time all around your house, even accumulating in your air filter.

To avoid this indoor air pollution, skip candles and simply open windows to fill your home with fresh air. When you do burn candles, make sure they are made of 100 percent beeswax with cotton wicks for much cleaner burning.

2. Cigarette Smoke
According to the research on environmental toxins, cigarette smoke is linked to cancer, atherosclerosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and other age-related diseases. Chronic exposure to cigarette smoke means exposure to more than 4,000 potential toxicants, suggesting that it is one of the most potent gerontogens.


Don't be quick to reach for e-cigarettes, either. Scientists have identified cancer-causers like benzene, formaldehyde, and heavy metals in e-cigarette aerosol. (Visit the American Lung Association for tips on how to quit smoking.)

More: Avoid These Things to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk

3. Stress
Studies on the gerontogenic effects of stress are still in their infancy, but researchers have discovered that chronic psychological stress leads to age-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, decreased immunity, and neural degeneration. To mitigate the toxic effects of stress, try taking part in transcendental or mindfulness meditation, which has been shown to lower anxiety, depression, and anger, while improving psychological conditions. Also, find time to sweat it out! Physical activity can help you cope with stress through the release of endorphins while also helping you live longer and lose weight.

To make sure your home is a healthy and nontoxic environment, make sure you banish these 12 household toxins