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Why It's Best To Avoid Burning Incense
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim
If you're around incense on a regular basis, you should know that a study published in the September 2001 issue of the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology indicates that burning incense can expose people to dangerous levels of cancer-causing chemicals.
Researchers collected air samples from inside and outside of a temple in Taiwan, and found that the air inside the temple was highly concentrated with a group of cancer-causing chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
One PAH called benzopyrene, which is linked to lung cancer in smokers, was found to be 45 times more concentrated in the temple than in homes where people smoked cigarettes.
The researchers also looked at total suspended particles (TSPs), a measurement that reflects the total weight of small and potentially harmful airborne pollutants that all of us are exposed to on an ongoing basis. They found that TSPs inside the temple was three times higher than it was at a local traffic intersection, and eleven times higher than just outside the temple. Put another way, they found that a steady volume of incense burning can create more harmful air pollution than that found at a typical traffic intersection.
Although the concentration of PAHs found in the temple in this study is almost certainly higher than it would be in a typical residence, this study serves to highlight the potential dangers of burning incense and other scented products like candles in areas that are not well ventilated.
It's also a good reminder to allow fresh air to circulate throughout work and living spaces. In the summer, windows should be kept open whenever possible. In the winter, if various factors make it difficult to keep windows open just a crack, it can be beneficial to open a few windows for a minute or two each day to get an influx of fresh air. All of this assumes that your neighborhood is relatively pollution-free; if you're in a heavily polluted area, it may be best to look at investing in a high quality indoor air purifier - two that I can recommend considering are:
Original study published in: Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology (vol 67, p 332)
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