Can incense be bad for you?

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Offline thedoc

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Can incense be bad for you?
« on: 10/06/2014 08:30:01 »
James Dyer asked the Naked Scientists:
Are there similar health impacts from aromatic smoke from incense and second hand cigarette smoke?

James Dyer

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 10/06/2014 08:30:01 by _system »


Offline chiralSPO

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Re: Can incense be bad for you?
« Reply #1 on: 10/06/2014 13:38:58 »
Probably. Cigarette smoke is particularly noxious, but any incomplete combustion of organic matter can release toxic and carcinogenic products. We know the combustion of incense is incomplete (not going all the way to carbon dioxide and water) because we can smell the perfume (essence) and see the smoke. Products of incomplete combustion include toxic small molecules like carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, and larger compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), many of which are known or suspected carcinogens. Also produced are airborne particulates (particulate matter, PM), which are major pollutants both indoors and out.

One thing to keep in mind though is "dose makes the poison." Our bodies are fairly good at neutralizing and removing toxic species, as long as they are in low enough levels. I would suspect that exposure to air pollution of this type is much more for those living in a large city (even with the catalytic converters, automobiles are quite polluting) than for one who just burns incense in their home. Still, because the dose is additive, if one is already exposed to significant amounts of air pollution, the incense could increase the toxic effects slightly.

My personal theory is that eventually (somewhat distant future) cities will ban all forms of open flame or combustion once they realize the hazards, and have invented cost effective alternatives.