Cultural use of incense? Your experience? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 01-14-2011, 07:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi mamas and papas,

 

I am at a deadlock in my discussion with DH about our use of incense. I am freaking out because I recently read that incense use in the home releases benzene and PAHs that increase leukemia risk in kids and that pregnant women should not be around it for the same reason.

 

We burned incense ALL through my pregnancy (for spiritual reasons mostly).....Now I am scared.

 

DH continues to burn frankincense and myrrh on charcoal tablets, which fills our whole apartment with smoke. Usually DS and I are out for the day, and when we get back home, I air out the rooms to avoid too much smoke, but I know DS still breathes some of it.

 

My DH argues that in so many cultures women burn incense in the home and places of worship all the time, during pregnancy and beyond, and their kids don't get leukemia....

 

I guess I just want to hear some people's experiences of incense use in their culture. Di you limit your exposure during pregnancy? Are you careful around your kids?

 

Mostly, I want to know that people burn it and their kids turn out ok, because I  am really nervous that I allowed for this to happen and didn't know the dangers until now.

 

 

Thanks ahead of time!


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#2 of 11 Old 01-14-2011, 01:42 PM
 
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How often is 'all through your pregnancy'? How much benzene and PAHs per what you would get normally from say, walking in the city every day or working in an enclosed office?

 

I personally think that there are variables that increase our risk to whatever, even by fractions of a percent, as well as variables that undo our risk, even by fractions of a percent. You can't change what's happened, but you can adopt health(ier) lifestyle changes to perhaps offset the possible increase in risk.

 

Admittedly, I am not a fan of a child breathing in second hand smoke on a daily basis. Can you contain the incense to say, by the window, and only when you're out?

 

We burnt incense as well, but not to the extent that you might have. I know about the possible toxins (but not really in depth) - there are 'safer' incenses out that are healthier for you. Maybe see if DH would make the switch?

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#3 of 11 Old 01-14-2011, 05:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, every day through my pregnancy is often, including sometimes in the car, but with the windows down. Also, we were in Hawaii through most of my pregnancy, so even when we burned it indoors, the cabin was open on all sides...

 

As for what level of exposure took place once we got back to the city, it is really hard to say. I take DS out to the park daily, and most of the time that is when DH burns the charcoal stuff (frankincense and myrrh). Sometimes we would get back and it would still be kind of hazy. I would air out then. Also, he burns it in the kitchen, and most of our DS's time is spent in the bedroom. He doesn't play in the kitchen and even though SOME smoke creeps into the bedroom, the highest concentration is still in the kitchen.

 

"I personally think that there are variables that increase our risk to whatever, even by fractions of a percent, as well as variables that undo our risk, even by fractions of a percent. You can't change what's happened, but you can adopt health(ier) lifestyle changes to perhaps offset the possible increase in risk."

 

I completely agree with you. We eat organic when we can, I still nurse, and I carry him so he has never really been low to the ground to breathe in too much benzene and PAHs from cars (although we ARE in the city). We also spend a LOT of time in nature, hiking and camping (although now I'm thinking about that good ole campfire smoke, lol).

 

Could I ask what you consider to be safer incenses? I would love to suggest some to DH. I know the practice means a lot to him and he has given it up for now, as he sees me freaking out.

 

Thanks for your answer!


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#4 of 11 Old 01-15-2011, 03:11 PM
 
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I remember seeing some stores carrying 'safer incense' that produced way less smoke. I own some but I bought it at a conference. They're very low smoke, very high with essential oils and I think the resin, or whatever they used to make it, is low in chem.

 

Would your DH burn it outside in a special little burner, like by an altar?

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#5 of 11 Old 01-28-2011, 12:43 PM
 
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This is totally unfounded, but all I kept thinking is how much incense they burn in India, and how the life expectancy is something like

 

68 there. Of course there are many many reasons for that, but I am certain horrible pollution is one of them. Incense is just one form of very prevalent smoke all over India. Also cars and old rickshaws, plus they burn their garbage out in the open, plus industry and slack regulations.

If it makes you so upset and it concerns the health of your child, it's a pity your partner isn't more respectful, even if he disagrees. I'm sorry.

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#6 of 11 Old 01-31-2011, 07:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I didn't know life expectancy in India was so low, but I am sure it is for reasons other than incense (i.e. pollution, sanitation problems, disease, lack of access to medical care, etc). Indian people DO use a lot of spices that are anti-carcinogenic, though! winky.gif

 

My DH is on board with me and has been respectful of my wishes. I just know the practice was meaningful to him and I wanted to run it past people who might relate culturally or spiritually. I had a lot of anxiety about having burned it previously (which was my choice. I just didn't know it could be harmful), but we won't be burning anything around our son these days.

 

Thanks!

 

 

 

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Originally Posted by P.J. View Post

This is totally unfounded, but all I kept thinking is how much incense they burn in India, and how the life expectancy is something like

 

68 there. Of course there are many many reasons for that, but I am certain horrible pollution is one of them. Incense is just one form of very prevalent smoke all over India. Also cars and old rickshaws, plus they burn their garbage out in the open, plus industry and slack regulations.

If it makes you so upset and it concerns the health of your child, it's a pity your partner isn't more respectful, even if he disagrees. I'm sorry.



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#7 of 11 Old 02-08-2011, 12:45 PM
 
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My IL's supply us with aurobindo brand which is made at an ashram and uses only pure products, not all those perfumy chemicals. That being said, any smoke is bad for health long-term. When we do burn it, it's only for the actual puja and then we put it right out. Too many allergies in our home to justify it being burned. What is the need for your dh to burn so much of it?? Even at my IL's house they only burn a couple of sticks in the shrine room in the morning.


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#8 of 11 Old 02-08-2011, 01:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by USAmma View Post

My IL's supply us with aurobindo brand which is made at an ashram and uses only pure products, not all those perfumy chemicals. That being said, any smoke is bad for health long-term. When we do burn it, it's only for the actual puja and then we put it right out. Too many allergies in our home to justify it being burned. What is the need for your dh to burn so much of it?? Even at my IL's house they only burn a couple of sticks in the shrine room in the morning.



Thanks for the tip. I'll check into that brand. We will probably be able to hunt it down in the city ethnic specialty shops. We don't have any allergies in our home that we know of, ut I don't like the smoke either. We both burned it daily as part of our yoga/meditation practice. We know better now, but for a long time just didn't kow it was harmful.


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#9 of 11 Old 02-08-2011, 03:29 PM
 
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Japanese incense is less smoky and irritating, a more sophisticated, subtle smell, than the type your husband burns.  There is much less burning happening because just the tiny tip of the incense burns, not a charcoal brick and a cone.  I recommend Shoyeido brand.  Beautiful.

 

We burn incense many times a day thru our house at our alters.  I'm pretty sensitive to smoke and perfumes, but I don't find the japanese incense irritating.  But Indian temple incense, or Tibetan incense, very thick and smoky. I actually feel sick to my stomach when it burns inside.

 

Could your husband switch to a more delicate sent, one favored by the samurai and zen masters of yore?  ;)


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#10 of 11 Old 02-08-2011, 03:41 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by USAmma View Post

My IL's supply us with aurobindo brand which is made at an ashram and uses only pure products, not all those perfumy chemicals. That being said, any smoke is bad for health long-term. When we do burn it, it's only for the actual puja and then we put it right out. Too many allergies in our home to justify it being burned. What is the need for your dh to burn so much of it?? Even at my IL's house they only burn a couple of sticks in the shrine room in the morning.


This is what happens at our house as well. I had no idea that it was unhealthy.


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#11 of 11 Old 02-08-2011, 04:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
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Quote:
Originally Posted by USAmma View Post

My IL's supply us with aurobindo brand which is made at an ashram and uses only pure products, not all those perfumy chemicals. That being said, any smoke is bad for health long-term. When we do burn it, it's only for the actual puja and then we put it right out. Too many allergies in our home to justify it being burned. What is the need for your dh to burn so much of it?? Even at my IL's house they only burn a couple of sticks in the shrine room in the morning.


This is what happens at our house as well. I had no idea that it was unhealthy.


I don't want to freak you out, because I went through a loooong period of guilt and anxiety due to not knowing, but there are some additives in incense, benzene, and PAHs that release into the air and then settle on floor and furniture. There supposedly was also a study (although during my freakout period I never did find the original study to see if it's legit) that supposedly showed that women who burned incense while pregnant at least once a week were more likely to give birth to children who developed leukemia. And in Quatar, children whose parents burned incense in the home were more likely to get leukemia too. Now, here is the interesting thing, followed by my personal verdict on the subject. When they did research on incense-burning in Taiwan, they found 45 times the concentrations of PAHs in a poorly ventilated temple than in a smokers home (duh! it's a place where it burns all day every day in large amounts). Yet the Taiwanese people didn't seem to have an increased risk of leukemia. The researchers then kind of said, "Eh. Must be their healthy diet." The research to me seems really shaky and inconsistent. They refer to everything as "incense", but that's like comparing apples to oranges. What I think is that incense has been used by many cultures for millenia. And I DO think it matters what kind of incense one burns. Typically, slow-burning (and charcoal) creates more smoke. Too much smoke is bad.

But there are more natural incenses (my DH has burned frankincense and myrrh resins in the past), as well as stick incense that uses essential oils and no synthetic fragrances. Would I ever bring those bright green, turquoise and purple sticks (scented to smell like "autumn rain" or "fresh laundry") into my home? Nah. I wouldn't do that in the first place. Do I now see how burning ANYTHING releases things into the air? Certainly. We live in the city and I could really do without the extra air pollution.

 

DH as of late has been using a ceramic essential oil warmer (the kind where you put a tealight on the bottom for heat). He seems ok with it, although I will definitely look for the incense brands you suggested. I don't know much about Japanese incense at all (although I DO love all things Japanese, especially the food and art), but I will look into it. Thanks tons, Subhuti, for your experience with it.

 

You guys rock.


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