Sunday my family and I piled into the family van and drove to St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church
. There were too many people, so my family had to wedge into pews separately. My father and I sat together.
Sitting there with my dad, the pungent smell of Church Incense suddenly crept up my nose and beat the insides my sinuses with a baseball bat. The thing was, I had no idea where the smell was coming from. It was as if the clouds of death were falling upon the congregation from Heaven itself. Tears welled up in my eyes as I opened them to see the priest waving a metal can of incense from a chain over all of us.
I decided that I needed to direct myself to a kleenex before I got a nosebleed, so I ran into the sacristy, a room near the church where the priest and servers prepare. But yet again I was not able to elude the smell--the room itself was filled with a thick grey cloud of incense smoke. I saw the metal incense holder hanging on a hook in the corner, still smoking.
I took a deep breath and forged into the room. My eyes watered and my nose burned, but I got several handfuls of kleenex and ran into the basement to blow my nose.
It was not until about fifteen minutes ago that I fully recovered from the trauma to my eyes and sinuses. However, my lungs may never fully recover. According to Thad Godish, PhD, incense smoke contains carcinogens similar to the ones contained in cigarette smoke or exhaust.
When incense is burned, it gives off a variety of by-products. But because it is a smoldering burn, it gives off extremely high concentrations of carbon monoxide, aldehydes, and breathable particles (the smoke). They are both upper respiratory and pulmonary system irritants. They can inflame mucous membranes and initiate asthmatic attacks in some people. Burning incense has been reported to produce carcinogens such as benzo-a-pyrene, several other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and the nasal carcinogen, sinaldehyde. Also formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein. Both formaldehyde and acrolein are potent mucous membrane irritants. Acrolein is particularly irritating to the eyes.
To quote vuo, "sugars are aldehydes; pyrenes are a group of 4xbenzene ring compounds; think mothballs." He also explained the effects of these chemicals to me by saying the body's detoxification system is what makes these toxins so harmful--they aren't easy to urinate out.
Why should those who are impartial to nosebleeds and asthma attacks be discriminated against in places of worship? Okay, that was pretty extreme, but it's all for the sake of my point: Incense sucks.