The bad kind of burn. The smell of burning incense should bring about insta-Zen. The reality: Incense smoke releases potentially harmful concentration...
The smell of burning incense should bring about insta-Zen. The reality: Incense smoke releases potentially harmful concentrations of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and formaldehyde, finds new research from the University of North Carolina.
The smoke also triggers an inflammatory response in human lung cells that’s similar to what happens when you’re exposed to cigarettes, the study finds. But fortunately, just like when you ditch your nicotine fix, you’ll experience improvements in lung function when you stop lighting incense, says study author Karin Yeatts, Ph.D.
If you’re going to keep burning, reduce your exposure by ventilating the room with each use. Also, stick with an electric device to heat incense—many kinds are burned using charcoal, which releases more carbon monoxide and nitrogen, Dr. Yeatts says.
And if you have respiratory conditions—asthma and lung disease—or heart disease, avoid spaces where sticks are lit, since the smell could worsen inflammation in your breathers.
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