Tag Archives: incense

Letter to health food store regarding incense


Regarding incense…

I started shopping full time at health food stores because of the unhealthy indoor air in regular stores, and food that tasted like laundry products as a result. More recently, I decided to look up what incense is made of after buying food that tasted like incense from sitting on the store shelf in a store that sold incense, and found some disturbing information.

” A typical composition of stick incense consists of 21% (by weight) of herbal and wood powder, 35% of fragrance material, 11% of adhesive powder, and 33% of bamboo stick. Incense smoke (fumes) contains particulate matter (PM), gas products and many organic compounds. On average, incense burning produces particulates greater than 45 mg/g burned as compared to 10 mg/g burned for cigarettes. The gas products from burning incense include CO, CO2, NO2, SO2, and others. Incense burning also produces volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, toluene, and xylenes, as well as aldehydes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)….”

Additionally “In India, (and possibly elsewhere since it is such a common ingredient in fragrance chemistry) diethylphthalate is used extensively in the incense stick industry as a binder of perfumes. It can be emitted into the air during incense burning.”

Diethylphthalate (DEP), used as a plasticizer and a detergent base (and in many other fragranced consumer products), is a suspect carcinogen.

Like second hand smoke, pollutants emitted from incense burning in a close environment are harmful to human health. As mentioned above, particulate matters, and some of volatile organic compounds, musk ketones, musk xylenes, and musk ambrette, aldehydes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, diethylphthalate (DEP) are toxic to the lung and allergenic to the skin and eyes.

Read the full study at: http://www.clinicalmolecularallergy.com/content/6/1/3

I’m not sure what other kinds of fragranced products you carry, but hope that if you do, they’d be enclosed in glass cabinets, as they are also known to emit all kinds of health hazardous VOC’s.

see: INDOOR AIR QUALITY: Scented Products Emit a Bouquet of VOCs including some that are classified as toxic or hazardous by federal laws.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018511 /

Incense and other fragranced products are often unwrapped, or sold in flimsy plastic bags which do nothing to keep the VOCs  from migrating into other foods and products in the store.

I would love to be able to purchase a wide array of foods from you but I cannot, because everything that isn’t in glass or thick cellophane tastes like incense after being in the store for a while. Even those will emit incense VOCs because the labels are absorbent.

I have asked for and received some accommodation, like ordering cases of certain things, and trying to have them picked up as soon as possible to avoid cross-contamination, but since I don’t have a variety of people who can shop for me, this isn’t working out as a very effective solution. It would be much better if the foods you sold did not end up with  fragrance chemicals attached to them in the first place.

My main concern however isn’t just for myself, but for everyone who gets exposed, especially to burning incense, which might be more harmful that cigarette smoke, as the above research indicates.

I therefore believe that any store that wants to claim it is a “health” food store, should not be selling incense or any other fragranced products (that aren’t 100% certified organic).

I’m pretty sure that you’d agree after reading the research.

Please let me know if and when you can make your store a healthy incense and fragrance-free indoor environment, so that I and others will know the foods you sell have not been contaminated by harmful VOCs and are truly good for us to eat.

Kind regards,

(I’ll let you know what kind of responses I receive. Please let me know what kind of responses you receive if you use this letter as a template)

What do tobacco smoke, fragrance chemicals, food, drugs, supplements, health food stores and incense have in common?

Tobacco smoke contains so many harmful chemicals causing health problems, that smoking has been banned from most public indoor environments. Work remains to be done in shared housing, where neighbours are forced to breathe in 2nd and 3rd hand smoke.

Since fragrances  also have  many harmful chemicals,  including too many  of the same chemicals found in tobacco smoke, they should also be banned from indoor environments. Well, (unless  certified organic), they should just be banned period  since they also pollute the outdoor air when expelled from dryer vents, and also pollute our  waterways.

Just like sitting in a smoky room for 10 minutes will make your hair and clothes smell like smoke, sitting in a fragranced room for 10 minutes will do the same. In fact, foods absorb smoke   and fragrance too, including those that can’t be washed (breads, salt, etc) and if you are attending a wine tasting event, you’re asked not to smoke or wear fragrances since they interfere with people’s ability to taste and smell.

Most fragrance chemicals weren’t designed to be eaten (although IFF would probably beg to differ ) and most of us certainly don’t want to be eating plastics, do we? Makes you wonder why phthalates  are found in drugs and supplements?    Especially since so much evidence is mounting regarding harm.

So what to do? One might assume that shopping for food, especially organic food, at health food stores (HFSs) would be safer. One would be thinking wrong if the HFS sell  fragranced products and  incense, which is linked to asthma, dermatitis,   and cancer,    and most HFSs do sell these products.

They don’t sell cigarettes, which are even triple wrapped despite not containing any VOC’s when unlit, yet the incense and other fragranced products are often unwrapped, or sold in flimsy plastic bags which do nothing to contain the VOCs, or keep them from migrating into other foods and products in the store.

I don’t know about you, but when I pay extra for organic foods, I don’t want them tasting like incense or other fragrance chemicals. I don’t want to be eating phthalates and BPA, so I avoid plastics, I don’t want to be breathing in the chemicals in tobacco smoke, yet buying food from most stores means these toxic chemicals are getting into the foods they sell.

Buying veggies and fruit from farmer’s markets,    CSA‘s    or organic delivery services usually eliminates this problem, but some warehouses have so-called air”fresheners”     or allow staff to use scented soaps   etc, which end up leaving residues on the food, and not all kinds of foods are available from these sources.

Food should not be kept in the same air space as these toxic chemicals. Volatile toxic chemicals should be sealed in impenetrable packaging as long as they are still legal. Stores that sell both food and items that contain volatile chemicals  should be required to separate the fragranced items from the foods, including using different ventilation systems.  It shouldn’t be so difficult for anyone, let alone those of us with a medical need,  to find safe, chemical and fragrance free foods.