Is Agarbatti (Incense Stick) Smoke Harmful For Health?
While incense sticks are considered holy with a purifying effect in the Indian culture, the smoke released by them can pose some risks to our health.
Smoke of incense sticks can cause respiratory infections
- Smoke of incense sticks can cause skin allergies
- Incense stick smoke makes the body more toxic
- Smoke released by incense sticks increase risk of asthma
Agarbattis or incense sticks are one of the most common things that you will find in any Indian household. An essential part of prayer, incense sticks are used in pujas and other religious activities. Apart from this, many people light incense sticks for their aroma as they often lend a soothing fragrance to the space where they are lit in. However, while incense sticks are considered holy in our Indian culture, the smoke released by them can pose some risks to our health.
Incense sticks are used in abundance in many religious places. People working in these places or the ones who spend a lot of time there, are more likely to be prone to risks of smoke released by incense sticks. On being asked if using incense sticks in moderation will pose any serious risks to health, Dr Gita Prakash said they are not harmful when used in moderation. "Incense sticks are more harmful for people who are allergic to smoke. Lighting 1 or 2 agarbattis in a day at home will not be harmful for anybody. But being in their constant exposure can be hazardous to health," says Dr Gita.
Also read: Are Incense Sticks Safe?
Regarding the health risks posed by incense sticks, pollutants released by the smoke of incense sticks can sometimes cause inflammation in the tubes that are responsible for passing air to lungs. Content of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen can lead to chronic diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
According to Dr Himanshu Garg, HOD of respiratory and critical care at Artemis Hospitals, health risks posed by incense sticks are quite established. "Many pujaris suffer from COPD. In the past couple of months, we have seen an explosion of COPD and agarbattis are quite a known culprit for this. There is a lot of data among pujaris about the increased prevalence of COPD in them," he says. Also, constant use of agarbattis can lead to indoor air pollution and inflammation in the lung cells. Many people experience coughing and sneezing because of the hypersensitivity that is caused by their smoke.
(Dr. Gita Prakash is a Family Physician at Max Multi Speciality Hospital, Panchsheel Park; Dr Himanshu Garg is Head, Department of Respiratory and Critical Care, Artemis Hospitals)
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