Incense stick innovation aims to cut cancer risk at Chinese New Year
Silpakorn University has designed incense sticks that burn quicker, to reduce air pollution including hazardous PM2.5 during Chinese New Year, which falls on Sunday.
Thais of Chinese descent celebrate the occasion by visiting shrines and lighting incense to honour the gods and the spirits of their ancestors.
As a result, Chinese shrines in Bangkok and other cities are often shrouded in perfumed clouds of smoke at this time of year.
“Traditional sticks usually burn for 20-30 minutes, creating smoke that causes air pollution, especially at popular shires with a high volume of visitors like Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (Wat Leng Noei Yi) in Bangkok’s Chinatown,” said Associate Professor Ratthaphol Onchaeng of Silpakorn University’s science faculty.
“Smoke from burning incense sticks contains heavy metals and allergens and could cause cancer after prolonged exposure. It is a serious health hazard, especially among seniors who like to pray,” he added.
The research team led by Ratthaphol came up with a new and safer design, which they call the “Silapakorn Rangsan Incense Stick”.
The new stick contains less incense mixture and therefore burns for only 5-6 minutes.
“The shorter time should not have an impact on people’s prayer rituals, which normally only last a few minutes anyway,” said Ratthaphol.
“Shorter sticks also help make it easier for shrine staff to dispose of the used sticks after worshippers leave.”
Ratthaphol said the shorter burning time means the Silapakorn Rangsan Incense Stick creates up to four times less pollution than traditional sticks.
The team is offering free samples of its new design at Leng Buai Ia Shrine in Bangkok’s Chinatown for worshippers who want to try new sticks that are healthier and better for the environment.