The practice of burning incense (agarbatti) is popular in many geographical regions of the world. While many people perform this ritual at the time of worshiping God, others do so to invoke fragrance in the ambiance.
Indulging in this innocuous looking practice can prove to be dangerous. A latest study, conducted by a team at Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has uncovered the harmful effects of burning incense.
Burning incense tends to generate indoor air pollutants like carbon monoxide which has the potency to cause inflammation in human lung cells, establishes the study.
For the purpose of the study, researchers simulated the typical UAE living room conditions where incense is burnt. They identified and measured the emissions from two different kinds of incense; Oudh and Bahkoor used in such homes.
The study researchers noted the particulate concentrations and levels of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and formaldehyde. The testing that spanned three hours was done in a specially designed indoor environmental chamber wherein human lung cells were also exposed to these gases. The cells were then incubated for a day to enable the particulates settle down and the cells to respond.
The study authors have recommended that people using such incenses should have better ventilation in their homes. A simple solution is to keep a door or window open which facilitates air flow. The use of electric combustion devices instead of charcoal is also a possible solution, aver the researchers.
The researchers found that both types of incense released considerable amounts of particles, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and oxides of nitrogen that led to cellular inflammatory response.
The study corroborates with earlier findings that link incense smoke to a numerous medical conditions including those related to eyes, nose, and throat irritation.
Some studies have also found a positive correlation between incense and asthma, headaches, cardiovascular disease and changes in lung-cell structure.
Data of the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that chronic obstructive respiratory disease (COPD) is responsible for more than 1 million deaths every year. Such people are exposed to pollutants from cook stoves and open hearths which results in fatalities.
The latest study titled ‘Hazard assessment of United Arab Emirates (UAE) incense smoke’ has been published in the August 2013 issue of Science and the Total Environment.