By Sydney Zelenak
Breathing in the essence of eucalyptus and Nag Champa may not be as harmless as you think. People all around the globe use incense for spirituality, relaxation, or mere aroma; Buddhists, Hindus, and Christians alike use the smoke to meditate and purify the air, and it has also become part of ceremonial rituals. What may now be shocking to hear are the possibly-fatal effects that sticks of sandalwood or any type of incense can give off.
Although it might not be equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, the American Lung Association has added incense as a risk factor for respiratory tract cancer. It is not proven to cause lung cancer, though. Incense contains known carcinogens such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), carbonyls, and benzene, so why would people risk it?
Lauren Allen, a current student at Michigan State University, expresses her loves for incense. “I burn incense every day when I meditate or just to relax. I can’t imagine my life without it!”
So, are all these temples and bedrooms filled with people just waiting to die? Hopefully not—but people are willing to risk it for inner peace. Om.