Can Agarbatti or Incense Smoke cause Cancer? Research Says Yes

Incense sticks, commonly known as Agarbattis in the Indian culture, can be found in essentially every Hindu household indulging in worshiping Gods. Well, as a matter of fact, they do not just signify worshiping but are known to denote spirituality, peace and prosperity in a household. In recent times, agarbattis are being bought in several soothing and mesmerizing fragrances for beguiling aromas to reside in our homes. Apart from that, they have become an essential part of prayers and other religious activities. Though these incense sticks are becoming a holy part of our Hindu households, it has the potential to pose threats to our health and cause cancer.

Ingredients of an Agarbatti/Incense Stick-

Incense comes from tree resins, as well as some seeds, flowers, roots, and barks that are aromatic. The main ingredients are-

  • Bamboo sticks
  • Paste ( made of wood powder, charcoal powder and jiggit/joss/gum/tabu powder)
  • Perfume ingredients (perfumes and other essential oils)

Well the factual statements of its threat posing potential can be assessed through the following aspects-

Incense Smoke is Bad for Health

1. Research Studies-

The researchers in a study found an increased risk of the squamous cell respiratory cancer in the long-term, regular incense users. However, this was only found when they split the group into very many other smaller subgroups and the results were actually of borderline significance.

At the end of 12 years of the follow-up, 1,304 respiratory cancers have been diagnosed. The final analysis included  1,146 cases for which there had been a logical diagnosis. Of these respiratory cancers, 89% of the nose and throat cancers were undifferentiated cells, 88% of the non-pharyngeal upper respiratory cancers were the squamous cell, and of the lung cancers, 24% were the squamous cell.

2. Genetic Mutation-

study confirmed that incense smoke contains three kinds of toxins which can definitely lead to cancer. These three kinds are genotoxic, mutagenic and cytotoxic. Therefore, agarbattis have the harmful potential to cause a gene to mutate, which is actually the first prerequisite to cancer and a plethora of other lung diseases. Genetic mutation tends to cause a change in the DNA, which is perpetually not a good sign.

3. Inflammatory Reaction-

When we breathe in the incense smoke, it tends to get trapped in our lungs, which often leads to an inflammatory reaction. Since the particles contain as many as 64 compounds, if this keeps happening continuously, it would result in causing irritation in the respiratory passage.

4. Particles-

Incense sticks are potentially harmful to us mainly due to the fact that they contain extra fine particles which can prove to be extremely dangerous to our body, and the addition of various artificial fragrances can only add to this danger posed to our health.

Some Unkown Facts-

  • Not only do agarbattis cause respiratory cancers, but it poses increased risks of nasal/sinus cancers and even malignancies of the tongue, mouth and throat.
  • It’s 45 times more harmful than a cigarette smoke.
  • Several priests all over the world suffer from COPD, agarbatti being the culprit.
  • Constant use of incense sticks causes indoor air pollution
  • Many hypersensitive people even experience coughing and sneezing due to this smoke.

All that being said, how will you understand when the incense smoke starts playing the nasty games with you? Apparently, the answer is symptoms. So, study the symptoms of the resulting diseases below and stay aware of what is actually happening to your body.

Symptoms of Genetic Mutation-

Symptoms of Lung Cancer-

Symptoms of Throat Cancer-

  • Change in your voice
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble in swallowing
  • A persistent cough (may cough up blood)
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • A constant need to clear your throat
  • Ear pain
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness

Symptoms of Nasal Cancer-

  • Pain above or below the eyes
  • Post-nasal drip (nasal drainage occurring in the back of the throat and nose)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Blockage of one side of the nose
  • Loss or change in vision
  • A headache
  • Pus draining from the nose
  • Decreased or loss of sense of smell
  • Loosening or numbness of the teeth
  • Constant watery eyes
  • Numbness or pain in parts of the face
  • Growth or mass of the face, nose, or palate (top of the mouth)
  • Bulging of one eye
  • Pain or pressure in one of the ears
  • Hearing loss
  • Trouble opening the mouth

So, the basic harm caused by incense smoke was briefed above with a focus on certain aspects and the calculation of the risks mitigated by regular usage or inhalation through the list of symptoms. Not only that, even the ingredients of agarbattis were mentioned so that you as consumers can make a well-informed choice. Several unknown facts were also brought into the picture for you to gain some knowledge about the health risks arising. In a nutshell, agarbatti or incense smoke is much more harmful than cigarette smoke.

Kabbyashree Dasgupta

An untamed perfectionist of imperfection. Writing is not only my hobby but an inculcated passion, which transports me into a different world altogether. As a part-time freelancer, I love writing articles and imparting knowledge, on my journey of learning a little bit more, each day.

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