Burning incense leaves higher blood-lead concentration

The China Post

By Grace Soong–The Department of Health’s Bureau of Health Promotion (國民健康局) warned against immersing children in incense-burning environments, yesterday, as recent studies revealed that the lead level in the blood of children living in households that burn incense rises with the amount of incense burnt.

Although no direct damage to children’s mental or physical developments have been observed in those growing up in incense-burning environments, experts still propose that parents maintain good ventilation in households especially when incense is being burnt.

The research on kindergarten-aged children’s blood-lead levels and factors that influence such levels was conducted by the Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene (OMIH, 職業醫學與工業衛生研究所) of National Taiwan University (NTU). Under the consent of their parents, a total of 934 children between the age of 4 and 7 across all cities in Taiwan took part in the research. Their blood samples were analyzed and coupled with plasma mass spectrometry.

Results of the research indicated that the blood-lead level for children from lower socio-economic households and those living in more remote areas are generally on the higher end. The highest lead concentrations appeared in the blood samples of children whose fathers work at metal, plastic, or pesticide factories.

Also noteworthy is that while the average blood-lead concentration for kindergarten children is 1.86 mcg/dL (micrograms per deciliter), children from households that frequently burn incense also have higher blood-lead saturation, at 2.24 mcg/dL.

Although the current blood-lead concentration reference standard set by the World Health Organization is at 10 mcg/dL and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has the level at 5 mcg/dL, since no direct negative implications from higher blood-lead concentrations have been observed, Hwang Yaw-huei (黃耀輝), professor of NTU’s OMIH, suggested that the Taiwanese government set the level lower than 4 mcg/dL.

The possibility that the intelligence of children chronically exposed to burning incense might be lower has still not been ruled out, Hwang asserted, emphasizing that children should be well protected against burning incense all the same.