Burning traditional Arabian incense can leave people more susceptible to headaches, forgetfulness and concentration problems, a study has found.
A study of indoor air pollution in homes across the Emirates has found people who burn incense such as oud and bakhour each day are two to four times more likely to suffer such symptoms.
“Incense is so common in the Arabian Peninsula, it really does beg further research,” said Karin Yeatts, who conducted the study.
It was commissioned as part of a wider investigation into air pollution by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (Ead).
The study was published in February in the online journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Researchers visited 628 Emirati households across the country to interview 1,590 people over eight months in 2009-2010.
They installed air-quality gauges in homes and conducted interviews on tobacco consumption, burning of incense and use of gas stoves.
The study found 86 per cent of Emirati households burnt incense at least once a week, and 44 per cent once a day.
Twenty-nine per cent of respondents lived in homes where significant traces of formaldehyde was found in the air, and 30 per cent had significant amounts of sulphur dioxide in their homes.
Formaldehyde exposure has been associated with neurological symptoms such as headaches and dizziness, while sulphur dioxide, which is produced by burning coals, can cause severe respiratory problems.
The study found the presence of sulphur dioxide was twice as likely in houses where people burnt incense two or more times a week.
Formaldehyde and hydrogen sulphide, another highly poisonous gas, were three times as likely to be found in those houses.
Ms Yeatts could not say whether there was a definite relationship.