According to incense stick makers, while the quality of incense sticks cannot be easily judged, buyers can check details to gauge the standard.
“Taiwan-manufactured incense sticks tend to be thinner, produce less smoke and create ash at a lower temperature. When it comes to poor-quality incense the fumes they give off can irritate the eyes and the nose, and can even cause nausea and dizziness,” the operator said.
Smoke from incense sticks — whether of a good or poor quality — contains chemical irritants and suspended particulates that can set off allergic reactions for people with asthma or allergies, doctors have said.
People who worship gods at home should avoid burning incense or at least maintain proper ventilation, doctors have said, advising devotees to put on a respiratory mask when visiting temples.
Lin Ja-liang (林杰樑), a specialist in clinical toxicology at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Linkou District (林口), said incense fumes would emit polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that contain first-grade cancer-causing benzene.
“Generally, when we are talking about poor-quality incense, we are talking about imports from China. In the absence of tests on the PAHs emitted by low-quality incense, customers should check the products’ country of origin and should opt for those made in Taiwan,” Lin said.
Additional Reporting by Lin Hsiang-mei and Huang Chi-hao