Burning Incense Generates Harmful Air Pollutants

(HealthDay News) – Burning incense generates harmful levels of indoor air pollutants and produces an inflammatory response in lung cells, according to a study published in the Aug. 1 issue of Science of the Total Environment.

Noting that incense is burned weekly in nearly all homes in the United Arab Emirates, where people spend more than 90% of their time indoors, Rebecca Cohen, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues examined air quality after burning two types of incense (Oudh and Bahkoor) in a specially designed indoor chamber to mimic the smoke concentration in a typical living room.

The researchers found that particle sizes ranged from 20–300nm. The time-weighted averages for particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and oxides of nitrogen exceeded current government regulations and emissions from tobacco smoke. Lung cells exposed to incense smoke displayed a significant inflammatory response. The high concentrations of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides were mainly attributed to the charcoal often used to ignite and burn the incense.

“Our hazard evaluation suggests that incense burning contributes to indoor air pollution and could be harmful to human health,” Cohen and colleagues conclude.

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