LONDON - THE smoke from smouldering joss sticks is a health hazard, according to a two-year study of temple workers by a Thai doctor.
'One joss stick produces the same amount of cancer-causing chemicals as one cigarette,' said Dr Manoon Leechawengwong in a report by The Guardian yesterday.
'I knew there would be some carcinogens, but I was surprised by the levels.'
He studied 40 workers in three temples at Ayutthaya, Chachoengsao and Samut Prakan - sites chosen because they are far removed from Bangkok's traffic pollution. The findings were compared with those of 25 people living in a joss-stick-free environment.
Dr Manoon found the temple workers were exposed to high levels of chemicals, such as benzene, butadiene and benzopyrene, putting them at risk of leukaemia and lung and bladder cancers.
He said the risks could be reduced by putting out the lit sticks after a minute or so, rather than leaving them standing in pots of sand as they burn down.
[And joss-burning season is coming up. If someone can make safer joss sticks, they could make a fortune.]