Hazards at Home – Burning Incense

Article by Bonita Tucker

While I was in my tiny photography room this weekend trying to take some smoke pictures, which involve quite a few sticks of incense, I began to wonder “just what is in this incense”?  The weather was too cold to open a window so limited ventilation, plus any breeze would have ruined my photographs.   Most incense is made from a combination of fragrant gums, resins, wood powders, herbs and spices, so what exactly are the health effects of breathing these in?

My research revealed some startling results;

Pollutants from incense smoke cause human lung-cell inflammation

Is incense bad for your health?

Incense smoke: clinical, structural and molecular effects on airway disease

Conclusion

Incense burning emits smoke containing particulate matter, gas products and other organic compounds and causes air pollution, airway disease and health problems. When incense smoke pollutants are inhaled, they cause airway dysfunction. Incense smoke is a risk factor for elevated cord blood IgE levels and has been indicated to cause allergic contact dermatitis. Incense smoke also has been associated with neoplasm….

What does that mean for us at home?

It is a good practice to keep the room well ventilated when burning incense – open a window or run a fan to dilute the indoor air pollutants and hence reduce the risk of exposure.