Tue, Jun 26, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Incense smoke bad for children: study

LAGGING:Babies who grew up in homes where incense was continuously burned were more likely to be slow to learn to walk with support, cohort study data suggest

By Wu Liang-yi and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Infants continuously exposed to incense smoke at home are more likely to show signs of slower development, a study by National Taiwan University’s (NTU) Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene said.

The infants took on average one to two months longer to develop gross motor skills, compared with other children, said institute director Chen Pau-chung (陳保中), who presented the research findings on Saturday at a forum held by NTU’s College of Public Health.

Babies who were continuously exposed to incense smoke had a 44 percent higher risk of being slow to learn to walk with support, compared with babies who were not exposed to smoke, while babies who were periodically exposed — such as during holidays and festivals — had a 26 percent higher risk, the study found.

Chen and his research team analyzed and compared the development of children who were continuously or periodically exposed to incense smoke at six and 18 months of age using data on 15,310 children collected via home visits and interviews by the Taiwan Birth Cohort Study — a longitudinal study of children born in 2005.

The effect on children’s development has to do with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, lead and other heavy metals found in incense, Chen said.

People are concerned about the health risks posed by cooking fumes, cigarette smoke, humidity, dust mites and other allergens and harmful substances, but incense smoke is also a risk factor, he said.

Burning incense at home is a religious practice, so it would be difficult to prevent it, Chen said.

He recommended burning incense only for short periods on holidays and festivals, and maintaining good air ventilation.

The effects of incense smoke on health are smaller than those of second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke, he added.

Another risk factor that is often overlooked is electric mosquito repellent tablets, he said, adding that the devices should not be kept on all night.

To avoid respiratory discomfort caused by humidity, Chen recommended closing the windows and using a dehumidifier to keep indoor humidity at 40 to 60 percent.

Additional reporting by CNA

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