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J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2009;72(6):369-73. doi: 10.1080/15287390802647187.

Effects of incense smoke on human lymphocyte DNA.

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Macau Institute for Applied Research in Medicine and Health, Macau University of Science and Technology Foundation, Avenida Wai Long, Taipa, Macau Special Administrative Region.


Incense burning is common in Southeast Asia, where it is a traditional and ceremonial practice in deity worship and paying respect to ancestors. However, incense emissions are an important source of indoor air pollution in Asia, and may induce health problems to those exposed. In this in vitro study the effects of incense emissions on human DNA were investigated using the comet assay. Particulates in smoke from six kinds of incense were trapped in saline or ethanol and human lymphocytes were exposed under controlled conditions. Results showed that DNA damage, including strand breaks, was induced by both aqueous and ethanolic extracts of two samples. The ethanolic extract of one sample induced DNA damage, while no significant DNA damage was found in the remaining three samples. The mechanisms underlying DNA damage induced by incense emissions were also investigated. Catalase (CAT), sodium azide, and superoxide dismutase (SOD) were co-incubated with extract, which exerted significant DNA damaging effects. Results showed that CAT with or without SOD diminished DNA damage, whereas sodium azide did not seem able to reduce DNA damage. Data indicate there are potential adverse health effects of such exposure, particularly for temple workers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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