Researchers at South China University of Technology assessed the health hazards associated with using incense smoke in the home and compared it with mainstream studies of cigarette smoke and found that incense smoke could cause adverse health effects.
In the study, two types of incense were tested. Both contained agarwood and sandalwood, the most common ingredients used to make this product. Incense smoke was found to be mutagenic, meaning it contains chemical properties that could potentially change genetic material such as DNA and, therefore, cause mutations.
The smoke 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. Mutagenics, genotoxins and cytotoxins have all been linked to the development of cancers.
Smoke from the sampled incense was found to consist almost exclusively of ultrafine and fine particles and is, therefore, likely to have adverse health effects. Rong Zhou, a researcher, said there needs to be greater awareness and management of the health risks associated with burning incense in indoor environments.
However, Zhou warned one should not simply conclude that incense smoke was more toxic than cigarette smoke. The study is published in the Journal Environmental Chemistry Letters