By Christine Chou ,The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Most incense sticks on the market that boasts of being “eco-incense” are not in any way beneficial to the environment, stated the Consumers’ Foundation (CF, 消基會) on Friday. Any burning activity is bound to generate air pollutants, said an official from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA, 環保署), Hsieh Chi-hsing (謝知行). Also, there are currently no certified standards to regulate incense sticks in the country, so the label “eco-incense” is merely a marketing stunt, stressed Hsieh. The burning of incense sticks emits Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) or benzene. Exposure to benzene in the air might cause mutations to the eyes, bloodstream, skin and respiratory system. It may also lead to diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma. According to a nationwide survey conducted by the Ministry of the Interior (MOI, 內政部), in 2014, there were 12,106 temples in the country, with 1,237 located in the Greater Taipei area — roughly a 10th of them.
The foundation warned that with the higher-density housing in the region, temples are closer to residences and may easily cause air pollution.
Investigators said none of the incense sticks they collected labeled their ingredients and materials. They urged the government to set up more comprehensive guidelines and standards for examining incense products and set regulations to control the air pollution in temples and other public spaces. The foundation also advised consumers not to linger in front of incense burners for too long and to worship outdoors rather than indoors. “We have reason to believe incense smoke links to higher cancer risks, and it releases PM2.5 pollutants into the air,” said Hsieh Yen-yau (謝炎堯), deputy hospital director at the Koo Foundation Sun Yat-Sen Foundation Cancer Center (和信醫院). “However, due to respect of religious freedom, we choose to raise awareness through gradually educating the public.”