Are Incense Sticks Harmful?

Are Incense Sticks Harmful

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Incense is a biotic and aromatic substance which is burned to release sweet-scented smoke. It’s utilized for a variety of reasons such as therapy, ceremony, meditation, and aesthetic reasons. This substance can also be utilized as an insect repellent or a simple deodorant. But, are incense sticks harmful? Let’s find out.

Types of Incense

There are two types of incense. Indirect burning incense, also known as non-combustible incense need a distinct heat source. This is because it’s not designed to burn on its own. Direct burning incense, also known as combustible incense is directly lit using a flame. Users then blow it or fan it out to display a bright ember that blazes and dispenses a smoky aroma. Direct burning incense is often a paste molded against a bamboo stick. It can also be a paste pressed against a cone shape or a stick.

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Are incense sticks carcinogenic?

A carcinogenic is any component, radiation, or radionuclide which enhances the development of cancer, a process known as carcinogenesis. This could be as a result of interruption of cellular metabolic procedures or injury on the genome. Incense smoke has been said to increase the risk of acquiring specific cancers according to a report released by The Guardian.

The report indicated that twelve-year research of approximately 60,000 Chinese people was connected with other studies conducted previously indicating that incense smoke has cancer-causing components. Incense users, therefore, were at risk of developing some cancers such as mouth and throat cancer, upper respiratory tract cancer, and lung cancer. The researchers discovered that people who used incense for a prolonged period of time were at high risk of developing squamous cell respiratory cancer.

These findings were established after the researchers divided the group to form small subgroups, and there was a marginal significance in their results. Still, the limitations of this study need to be considered such as the method used to classify the use of incense. The findings, however, suggest a possible connection between cancer and incense. Considering the link between tobacco smoke, various inhaled components, and respiratory cancer, the study could be convincing. Researchers, doctors, and scientists need to conduct further research to come up with a conclusive report.

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Is Breathing Incense Dangerous?

According to the Daily Telegraph, research has established that incense could require health alerts following the production of dangerous smoke. An evaluation of the smoke utilized on Asian and western religious ceremonies for many years established that it comprises of numerous chemicals a percentage of which could be dangerous to your health.

Two of the researchers who conducted this study had previously worked in a tobacco company where they directly analyzed the remnant of incense and tobacco smoke on bacteria cells and animals in the laboratory. They did this to establish whether inducing mutations in the DNA was possible as well as to figure out the effects of the smoke to the bells.

According to their findings, the effect of incense smoke analyzed on the cells was higher compared to that of tobacco smoke. However, only one cigarette and four incense sticks were analyzed which denies this report conclusive authenticity. Many people believe that incense is not smoked which means it does not penetrate the lungs directly as is the case with tobacco smoke.

It’s not yet clear how prolonged exposure to incense smoke can be compared to the health risks linked to passive smoking. This study serves as a reminder that when you burn anything, it produces smoke which can irritate and even damage the lungs. In order to freshen up your home with a sweet scent, purchasing a high-quality air freshener would be more appropriate.

Who Conducted this Study?

Together with his colleagues, Dr. Jeppe Friborg of the Masonic Cancer Center of Minnesota University in collaboration with the Singapore National University conducted this research. National Cancer Institute of Maryland US funded the study while the (peer-reviewed) medical journal published it.

Understanding the Scientific Study

This was potential adherent research where the researchers wanted to establish the link between the use of incense and the risk of developing respiratory tract cancer. The researchers utilized data from a previous study (Singapore Chinese Health Study) in their evaluation. The inaugural study to establish the role nutrition and diet played in cancer development was conducted in 1993, where approximately 63,257 Chinese women and men were enrolled.

They were between 456 and 74 years of age and excluded cancer patients at the time of enrollment to remain with 61,320 individuals. Participants were grilled to determine their social status, medical history, dietary intake, physical activity, and alcohol use or smoking as well as exposure to incense and other inhalants.

In terms of incense, the participants were asked whether they had utilized it within a span of various 10-year classifications, how frequent they utilized incense, the number of times they burnt incense per day, and where inside their houses they burned the incense. To understand the new cancer patients in the follow-up period up until 2005. Researchers ensured that their database was connected with the Singapore Cancer Registry and the Singapore Registry of Births and Deaths. This data helped them to evaluate the link between the use of incense and the cancer diagnosis type.

The Study Results

At the point of enrolment for the purposes of the study, the use of incense was high both for women and men. Generally, almost 93% of the participants were utilizing incense every day while 84% had used the substance for more than 40 years. According to researchers, only 0.03% of the group could not be reached for follow up. This was attributed to emigration to different regions.

The study came to completion after 12 years and showed that; 1,304 respiratory had been detected. The final report comprised of 1,146 cases where there was a microscopic evaluation also known as a histological diagnosis. Out of these respiratory cancers, 88% of the laryngeal cancers were a squamous cell, 89% of the throat and nose cancers were comparable cells, 42% were adenocarcinoma, and 24% of the lung cancers were a squamous cell.

Participants who utilized incense previously and currently showed no increased risk of respiratory cancer in comparison to people who hadn’t used incense. There was an increased increase in the risk of developing larynx cancer in current users who had used incense every day for more than 41 years in comparison with non-current users or even those who use incense excessively.

What are the Side Effects of Burning Incense Sticks?

The use of incense among the Chinese population is said to be higher compared to the prevalent Western population, further, the minimal number of people who never utilized incense in comparison to the increased numbers of current or former incense users can cause an error when it comes to running a comparison between the two risk categories.

As mentioned herein, many people use incense for various reasons which could be spiritual or even meditation purposes. Even then, the above analysis gives you more reason to reconsider the use of incense especially if you use it for prolonged periods. Here are the side effects of burning incense sticks you should know.

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Destructive to Cells

When you burn incense, it generates lots of harmful chemical material and air contaminants. Particulate matter is the most popular contaminant known to be destructive to cells. Particulate matter can alter genetic substances such as DNA which finally results in mutations. Mutations are highly responsible for the occurrence of different cancers.

Causes Respiratory Tract Problems

Many people sneeze and cough if incense sticks are burnt in their presence. This is attributed to the fact that incense smoke contains high levels of respiratory irritants which can cause discomfort. Different types of incense have been tested and proven to be more dangerous to the lungs compared to cigarette smoke. This is because of high particulate substance levels. Incense smoke can penetrate through your airways because it has finer particles compared to cigarette smoke.

Causes Lung Cancer

A big percentage of air contaminants produced from burning incense are cancer causing. They can cause lung irritation and have adverse effects on the user’s overall health. Research indicates that exposure to air contaminants for prolonged periods of time within close surroundings can increase the risk of developing lung cancer. Even then, these findings have only conducted on Chinese men who smoke.

Intensifies Asthma Symptoms

The air irritants and pollutants produced from the burning of incense are said to be the basic causes of asthma. Increased exposure to such contaminants can result in serious asthma symptoms as a result of inflammation of the lung cells. Regular exposure to incense smoke triggers already existing asthma-related symptoms such as coughing and wheezing.

Causes Contact Dermatitis

Are you allergic to air irritants and pollutants if the answer is yes, then you need to avoid burning incense sticks to reduce the chances of suffering from serious symptoms and effects. Allergens and particulate substances produced on burning incense can be dissolved in the sebum (an oily material which the skin secrets for lubrication purposes) when it gets into contact with the skin. This can cause contact dermatitis or skin allergies. The generated allergens also increase blood immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels which can be a sign of contact dermatitis.

Affects Children and Babies

On an overall, consistent exposure to incense smoke is not good for your health. If you are pregnant or have children and babies, avoiding it is the best idea. Inhaling incense smoke can expose your babies to serious health risks. According to research, children were highly likely to develop Leukemia in the womb if their mothers inhaled incense frequently when pregnant. This was attributed to potential gene mutations.

Causes Nerve Problems

Studies indicate that when you burn incense indoors, you increase carbon monoxide concentration in your room. Severe and prolonged exposure to burning incense sticks can cause neurological related problems, which can result in impaired learning capabilities and memory loss.

Causes Headaches

Doctors say that exposure to carbon monoxide can cause adverse health effects regardless of the magnitude. Some of the symptoms you should look out for include; nausea, overall discomfort, dizziness, and headaches. These symptoms are unlike the calming and peaceful effects associated with burning incense.

Can Cause COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

Different studies indicate that women from different cultures which burn incense regularly are highly likely to develop a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This heart deficiency often occurs in smokers. This study concurs with various other researches which reveal that incense smoke is more dangerous compared to cigarette smoke

Causes Cardiovascular Health Problems

Research indicates that people who utilize incense sticks at home on a regular basis are at a 12% likelihood of developing heart complications. Still, they have a 10% likelihood of developing coronary heart problems and a 19% likelihood of developing stroke

Research has confirmed that those who use incense sticks at home regularly are 12% more likely to die of heart problems. They were also 19% more likely to have a stroke and 10% more likely to develop coronary heart disease. This category encompasses individuals who burned incense in their homes on a daily basis within a period of 20 and more years.

Are there Risks Involved in Using Different Types of Incense Sticks?

Here is an analysis of different types of incense sticks and the risks involved in using each of them.

Citronella Incense Sticks

Citronella Incense Sticks are ideal when used as mosquito repellants. However, you should use them in moderation. These incense stick types contain high amounts of a particulate substance which means they can cause serious respiratory problems.

Sandalwood Incense Sticks

Sandalwood Incense Sticks are harmful to your health in a manner similar to ordinary incense sticks. They come with cell-destroying material which triggers genetic mutations.

Herbal Incense Sticks

Some markets sell herbal incense designated for smoking. The drugs promoted as herbal incense sticks are said to contain the same effects as marijuana sold in the legal market. However, there are no regulations for these substances and users have reported panic attacks, palpitations, psychosis, paranoia, and unconsciousness after taking them. You should avoid these substances as much as possible.


Prolonged exposure to incense stick smoke can cause adverse effects to your health. Do not use incense if you have lung problems or any kind of allergies. If you already use incense, try to reduce the usage moderately to minimize the health risks involved.

My name is Isabel and welcome to Blooming Air I created Blooming Air to be a place where homeowners can keep their homes healthy for them and their families with high-quality air units.