Beijing: Burning incense at home may put your health at great risk including cancer as the pleasant smell from incense smoke contains certain particles that are more toxic than those found in cigarettes, warns a new study.
Incense burning is a traditional and common practice in many families and in most temples in India and other parts of Asia.
It is not only used for religious purposes, but also because of its pleasant smell. During the burning process, particle matter is released into the air.
"Clearly, there needs to be greater awareness and management of the health risks associated with burning incense in indoor environments," said lead researcher Rong Zhou from South China University of Technology in Guangzhou.
The researchers assessed the health hazards associated with using incense smoke in the home and compared the results for the first time with mainstream studies of cigarette smoke.
They tested incense scented with agarwood and sandalwood, which are among the most common ingredients used to make this product.
Tests on animals showed that incense smoke contains chemical properties that could potentially change genetic material such as DNA, and therefore cause mutations.
It was also more cytotoxic and genotoxic than the cigarette used in the study.
This means that incense smoke is potentially more toxic to a cell, and especially to its genetic contents, the researchers noted.
Mutagenics, genotoxins and cytotoxins have all been linked to the development of cancers.
Taken together, the incense smoke samples contained 64 compounds. While some of these are irritants or are only slightly harmful (hypotoxic), ingredients in two of the samples are known to be highly toxic.
The study was published in Springer's journal Environmental Chemistry Letters.