Like candles, incense emits particulate matter (PM). PM is a hazard that can cause respiratory issues, and has even been linked to lung cancer.
But don’t let the dangers scare you away from enjoying the benefits of incense. By following these simple safety tips, you can enjoy incense without the risk.
Keep it away from flammable materials
Inflammable materials such as draperies, fabric and other upholstered furniture can be ignited by the embers from incense sticks or cones. This can be very dangerous and lead to a fire. Also, the smoke from burning incense can trigger smoke detectors and cause them to malfunction or go off.
Stick incense typically consists of sticks with aromatic substances adhered to them, such as ground dried plant materials or essential oils. You put the incense into an incense holder and light the tip with a match or lighter to start it smoking. Once it starts to burn, you blow out the flame and leave the smoldering stick with a red ember at the end.
You can also use coil incense, which is formed into a long spiral and burned with a censer. A coil can be a good choice for larger spaces since it’s not as tall as a stick and can fit comfortably in the center of an incense burner. The burner should be on a heat-resistant surface and kept away from fabrics, clothing and other flammable materials.
Place it in a fire-resistant holder
Burning incense can be dangerous if it’s not done properly. That’s why it’s important to place the incense in a fire-resistant holder when burning. It will help to protect you, your family, and pets from the burning incense as well as keep the hot ash away from any flammable materials.
Stick incense should be placed in a metal or ceramic holder that is bigger than the stick. This will help to prevent accidental house fires if the hot ash falls on curtains or other flammable material.
For cone incense, you can put a small amount of sand or dry grain at the bottom of the burner to improve air flow and to catch the ashes produced. It also helps to use a censer instead of a brass burner on wood surfaces because brass conducts heat extremely well.
Keep it out of reach of children and pets
Incense smoke is a fire hazard and can cause burns. The smoke can also trigger asthma and other respiratory issues. Children and pets are especially sensitive to the smell of smoke and may develop breathing problems from long-term exposure.
Although it’s rare for incense to cause fires, they do happen. In one case, two fire crews were called to a University flat in Cambridge due to unattended incense sticks. While nobody was injured, the flat suffered severe fire and smoke damage.
While burning incense can create air pollution, using natural plant-based incense and allowing adequate ventilation will reduce the impact on your health. Some incense contains chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been linked to certain cancers. These toxins are released during incomplete combustion. Long-term exposure can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other respiratory conditions. In addition, some of these toxins can trigger asthma and other respiratory symptoms.
Don’t leave it burning unattended
Burning incense can be a relaxing and calming ritual, but it’s important to remember that it’s still a flame and should be treated with care. Leaving it unattended can lead to fire, which can cause damage and smoke that isn’t healthy for your lungs.
The two main causes of house fires from incense are when the ash falls onto flammable materials or when it is left burning unattended. In both cases, the blaze could have been prevented had people put the incense down or extinguished it.
When lighting stick, cone and cylinder incense sticks, it is best to use a burner that can hold the flames upright. It’s also a good idea to add a small amount of sand, ash or dry grain to the bottom of your burner to improve air flow and prevent heat from damaging the surface it sits on. This is particularly helpful for brass burners, which conduct heat well and can damage wooden surfaces.