The sole purpose of this web page is to motivate you to research the health risks of burning candles and incense. If you must use candles or incense make sure the space you are using is well ventilated and limit the amount of time you are exposed to the smoke.
Long-Term Exposure to Incense Raises Cancer Risk
Exposure to burning incense over long periods of time raises the risk of developing cancers of the upper respiratory tract carcinomas, including nasal/sinus, tongue, mouth, and laryngeal.
Incense should be used with caution. Frequent use in rooms where people live should be minimized, or at least sufficient ventilation should be secured. Incense burning produces particulate matter and is known to contain possible carcinogens such as ployaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), carbonyls, and benzene.
The pollutant of most public health concern associated with candle and incense burning is soot particles. Soot particles are very tiny, and most can be easily inhaled and deposited in lung tissue. Such particles can be highly irritating. They have the potential to cause localized irritation of the respiratory airways and lung tissue. Because of such irritation/inflammation, they may pose a special risk to asthmatic children and adults. Soot particles generated by candle burning also contain significant quantities of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a group of compounds, which are well known for their cancer-causing potency.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, yet poisonous gas generally formed during incomplete combustion of organic substances, such as hydrocarbons, wood, incense, cigarettes, and fossil fuels. CO combines with haemoglobin much more readily than oxygen, by a factor of 200-300, hence reduces the blood’s capacity to transport oxygen. Inhalation of CO in low concentrations can cause headaches, dizziness, weakness, and nausea, while high concentrations can be fatal.
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Health effects of exposures to sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide can include reduced work capacity, aggravation of existing cardiovascular diseases, effects on pulmonary function, respiratory illness, lung irritation, and alterations in the lung’s defense system.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that have low boiling points and therefore evaporate easily at room temperature. Common VOCs include benzene, toluene, xylenes, and isoprene. Acute symptoms of VOC exposures are: eye irritation/watering, nose irritation, throat irritation, headaches, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, and asthma exacerbation. Chronic symptoms of VOC are: cancer, liver damage, kidney damage, and central nervous system damage.
In India, diethylphthalate is used extensively in the incense stick industry as a binder of perfumes. Diethyphtalate (DEP), used as a plasticizer and a detergent base, is a suspect carcinogen.
Burning can cause indoor air pollution and thus cancer, same as that from cigarette smoking. When burning incense, it is a good practice to keep the room well ventilated. It will effectively dilute the indoor air pollutants and hence reduce the risk of exposure.