Churchgoing may be hazardous to your health

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Discover Magazine notes an article from the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health PubMed.gov on particle mass during the burning of incense:

Particle mass and number measurements in a church indicate significant increases of indoor particle concentrations during the burning of incense. Generally, varying concentration regimes can be attributed to different “modes of indoor activity” and emission sources.

While periods of candle burning are negligible concerning particle concentrations, increases by a factor of 6.9 and 9.1 during incense burning were observed for PM10 and PM1, respectively. At maximum, indoor PM10 shows an 8.1-fold increase in comparison to outdoor measurements. The increase of particles < 2 microm is significantly enhanced in comparison to larger particles. Due to a particle decay rate of 0.9 h(-1) post-service concentrations are elevated for a time span of approximately 24 h above indoor background concentrations.

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MarkBrunson
Guest

One of the problems with regular charcoal (not self lighting) is that it is both expensive and difficult to find - at least here. What I've found is bamboo charcoal, used in Japanese incense ceremonies - wonderful, as it is specifically designed to eliminate odors from the charcoal, but $8 for twelve is steep, and comes in small tablet forms.

Bill Moorhead, do you mean charcoal, as used in home heating?

Again, Three Kings brand is the self-lighting that I've had the least difficulty with, and, with any self-lighting charcoal, you need to light it outside - or, at least, outside the worship area.

I tend to concur on self-lighting charcoal as "culprit," as it necessarily produces chemicals such as formaldehyde in combustion.

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Ann Fontaine
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Ann Fontaine

Thanks Paul -- I do think part of the problem is as stated above - the charcoal - self lighting is not all good. The other is the quality of the incense.

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Paul Martin
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Paul Martin

Although I was raised low church, I went to grad school in the Baretta Belt where I was exposed to a lot if incense. My wife grew up in the Roman Catholic church, where she was exposed to incense on high holy days. Neither of us had any problems until we moved to Albuquerque. There, we actually left one church because of athsmatic reactions to the incense. We had a similar reaction on Christmas Eve service at our new church.

I am not privy to the procedures used in any of these churches, but I suspect the choice of incense makes a difference, as does the quantity and other factors. Rather than engaging in ad hominem attacks, I would prefer some practical advice which would help neophytes in picking out and lighting incense.

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Ann Fontaine
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David-- I was raised a low church Episcopalian and find your language about "prots" insulting and offensive. Bashing me with Bible is not helpful to discussion.

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David Justin Lynch
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I am an asthmatic. I sing countertenor and served as a chorister in high churches for years. Lately I have been thurifer every Sunday. Incense does NOT bother my asthma AT ALL (but tobacco smoke surely does). Let's call a spade a spade. The people who oppose incense are by and large prots. Never mind that the Bible, which they profess to follow, MANDATES incense in worship - See Exodus 30:1-10 and Malachi 1:11. Incense pleases God. See Revelations 8:4. Worship is not just about us. I think what God likes should be taken into account. Lastly: good things happen when you offer incense. See Luke 1:8-10.

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