Air quality and incense smoke

Researchers: How safe is incense smoke?

May 24, 2016

The Research

We know that incense is used by millions around the globe, but variations in manufacturing and burning methods mean our understanding of its health effects is somewhat incomplete. So researchers from the University of South Wales and Cardiff & Vale University analyzed the results of 11 studies on incense smoke — which is known to contain carbon dioxide, particulate matter, and formaldehyde, among other compounds — to better identify health risks and recommend ways to mitigate harm.

The Results

Their examination turned up a variety of respiratory and cardiovascular complications. A Singaporean study, for instance, found incense users had a 12 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular conditions, including stroke and coronary heart disease. And a Qatari study, which examined 100 children with asthma, found a link between the condition and high exposure to Arabian incense. Ultimately, the researchers concluded that incense smoke should be considered an indoor air pollutant.

The Takeaway

Incense burning in our homes, even if it’s infrequent, releases a range of gases and organic compounds into the air. Families should avoid burning incense around children, the elderly, and those with a family history of heart and lung diseases. If burning incense is a tradition in your home, it’s important to take measures to combat the harmful substances that come along with the pleasant fragrances.

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