If you use incense regularly to make your house smell better, for meditation, or for spiritual purposes, you might want to reconsider. While incense smells great and gives you a pleasant feeling, it’s not a great idea to use it excessively. Here are a few reasons why incense is bad for you.
Why Incense Smoke Is Bad For You
1. Is Toxic To Cells
When incense is burnt, it produces a lot of air pollutants and harmful chemical substances. The most prominent among these is particulate matter, which is highly toxic to cells. It can change genetic material like DNA, which eventually leads to mutations.1 These mutations are largely responsible for the development of various kinds of cancer.
2. Negatively Affects Respiratory Tract
A lot of people cough or sneeze when incense sticks are burnt. This is because incense smoke contains a lot of respiratory irritants that cause discomfort. Some types of incense have been proved to be more toxic for the lungs than cigarette smoke due to the higher amounts of particulate matter.2 Incense smoke can also make its way deep into your airways because it has finer particles than cigarette smoke. While incense sticks like those of citronella are recommended as mosquito repellents, it is best not to use them in excess. Citronella incense sticks have the highest amount of suspended particulate matter3 and are hence likely to contribute to respiratory disorders.
3. Causes Lung Cancer
Many of the air pollutants produced when incense is burnt are carcinogenic – cancer causing. These pollutants tend to cause irritation in the lungs and also affect health in general. Research suggests that exposure to them in close quarters for a long duration is likely to increase the chance of lung cancer.4 However, this has been confirmed only for Chinese men who are smokers.
4. Increases Asthma Symptoms
Incense burning produces air pollutants and irritants, which are among the primary causes of asthma; the increase in exposure to these results in aggravated asthma symptoms due to the inflammation of lung cells. So, frequent exposure to incense smoke increases existing symptoms of asthma such as wheezing and cough.5
5. Results In Contact Dermatitis
If you are allergic to pollutants and irritants in the air, chances are burning incense sticks will affect you. When incense is burnt, the particulate matter and other allergens produced interact with the skin and get dissolved in the sebum – an oily substance secreted by the skin for lubrication. This, in turn, results in skin allergies and hence causes contact dermatitis.6 The allergens produced also heighten the levels of blood immunoglobulin E (IgE) – antibodies produced by your body in response to allergens – which is also an indicator of contact dermatitis.
6. Adversely Affects Babies And Children
In general, constant exposure to incense smoke is never a good idea. So, it’s definitely a good choice to stay away from it when you when you’re pregnant. Inhaling incense smoke is likely to put the health of your baby at risk. Research suggests a likelihood of children developing leukemia if their mothers were around incense regularly while pregnant.7 The possibility of gene mutations contributes to this.
In addition to these side effects, incense may also cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea. It is unsafe to burn any kind of incense stick – be it sandalwood, citronella, or opium – in excess. Frequent exposure for long durations can adversely affect your health, so it’s best to avoid the use as far as possible. If you have lung problems, avoid using incense. It is also recommended that you reduce the amount of time you’re exposed to incense and ensure sufficient ventilation while burning incense at home.
|↑1||Lin, Ta-Chang, Guha Krishnaswamy, and David S. Chi. “Incense smoke: clinical, structural and molecular effects on airway disease.” Clinical and Molecular Allergy 6, no. 1 (2008): 3.|
|↑2||Zhou, R., Q. An, X. W. Pan, B. Yang, J. Hu, and Y. H. Wang. “Higher cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of burning incense than cigarette.” Environmental Chemistry Letters 13, no. 4 (2015): 465-471.|
|↑3||Kumar, Raj, Nitesh Gupta, Deepak Kumar, Anil Kumar Mavi, Kamal Singh, and Manoj Kumar. “Monitoring of indoor particulate matter during burning of mosquito coil, incense sticks and dhoop.” Indian Journal of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 28, no. 2 (2014): 68.|
|↑4||Tse, Lap Ah, Ignatius Tak-sun Yu, Hong Qiu, Joseph Sui Kai Au, and Xiao-rong Wang. “A case-referent study of lung cancer and incense smoke, smoking, and residential radon in Chinese men.” Environmental health perspectives 119, no. 11 (2011): 1641.|
|↑5||Wang, I-Jen, Ching-Hui Tsai, Chang-Hao Chen, Kuan-Yen Tung, and Yungling L. Lee. “Glutathione S-transferase, incense burning and asthma in children.” European Respiratory Journal 37, no. 6 (2011): 1371-1377.|
|↑6||Hayakawa, Ritsuko, Kayoko Matsunaga, and Yaeno Arima. “Depigmented contact dermatitis due to incense.” Contact dermatitis 16, no. 5 (1987): 272-274.|
|↑7||Lowengart, Ruth A., John M. Peters, Carla Cicioni, Jonathan Buckley, Leslie Bernstein, Susan Preston-Martin, and Edward Rappaport. “Childhood leukemia and parents’ occupational and home exposures.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 79, no. 1 (1987): 39-46.|