Burning incense has been a popular method of freshening up a room for centuries. While the technique is somewhat popular in the U.S., it's more widely used in Arabian Gulf countries, where two main varieties - Oudh and Bakhoor- are more commonly known. Scientists from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently tested the health risks of these types of incense to see if using them indoors poses any threats.
During their trials, researchers "identified and measured" the particles and gases emitted from these types of incense and reviewed how the emissions affected lung cells taken from participants from the United Arab Emirates. Lung cells were exposed to one of the two popular varieties of incense for three hours and were then left in the rooms for a total of 24 hours to check for any damage or concerns.
From the data, scientists found both types of incense spread "significant amounts" of various particles, including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and oxides of nitrogen, which can lead to inflammation in the lungs. Other side effects include eye, nose, throat and skin irritation as well as respiratory issues similar to those faced by smokers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that smoking causes more than 440,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Since incense use could hold similar threats, it might be smart for users to burn the products outside or invest in a professional-grade air purifier like the IQAir GC MultiGas to breathe easier in the home.