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Church incense sparks Irish health alert

Dr Jim McDaid, medical doctor and junior minister in the Irish Government, has warned that the health of altar boys and girls is being put at risk from the use of burning incense, particularly at funeral services.

Speaking on Irish radio in support of the Irish government's plan to ban smoking in the workplace from the beginning of next year, he said: "It makes me cringe when I see that huge cloud of smoke rising right up into the child's face, particularly given the delicate nature of a child's lungs and the level of irritation it must cause."

Stressing that he was not anti-Chuch, McDaid said he often asked priests to remind Mass servers to shake the thurible over and back so the smoke did not billow into their faces.

"We all know that carbon is a carcinogenic agent, and wherever you have smoke, you are actually looking at carbon molecules. And wherever you have carbon molecules and happen to be inhaling them, then there is that chance that you will be doing damage.

Responding to the minister's comment, a spokeswoman for the Dublin Archdiocese said although there was no official position on Dr McDaid's remarks, any concerns about the use of incense would be taken seriously and subject to investigation by the church.

The spokeswoman said incense had been widely used in the past during Benediction and High Mass, but was most often used now during funeral ceremonies, when the priest was performing a blessing over the coffin.

Independent Catholic News

Health risk of burning incense to be investigated by Ireland's Catholic Church (London Independent)
Cancer warnings over incense become burning health issue (The Herald, UK)
Passive Praying (
Incense and sensibility (Yahoo)
Warning: Church can make you ill (London Telegraph)
Irish minister links incense to cancer (BBC)
Irish Government
Department of Health and Children | Smoking in the Workplace Ban
Incense (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Holy smoke: Irish health minister seeks to minimize risk from incense (Catholic News Service)
Archdiocese of Dublin

25 Aug 2003