Skip to main content

Characteristics of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Emissions of Particles of Various Sizes from Smoldering Incense


Release of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in particles of various sizes from smoldering incenses was determined. Among the three types of incense investigated, yielding the total PAH emission rate and factor ranges for PM0.25 were 2,139.7–6,595.6 ng/h and 1,762.2–8,094.9 ng/g, respectively. The PM0.25/PM2.5 ratio of total PAH emission factors and rates from smoldering three incenses was greater than 0.92. This study shows that total particle PAH emission rates and factors were mainly <0.25 μm. Furthermore, the total toxic equivalency emission rates and factors of PAHs for PM0.25 were 241.3–469.7 and 198.8–576.2 ng/g from the three smoldering incenses. The benzo[a]pyrene accounted for 65.2%–68.0% of the total toxic equivalency emission factor of PM2.5 for the three incenses. Experimental results clearly indicate that the PAH emission rates and factors were influenced significantly by incense composition, including carbon and hydrogen content. The study concludes that smoldering incense with low atomic hydrogen/carbon ratios minimized the production of total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons of both PM2.5 and PM0.25.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. Chang HL, Kuo ML, Lee JK (1997) Mutagenic activity of incense smoke in comparison to formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in Salmonella typhimurium TA102. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 58:394–401

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Lee SC, Wang B (2004) Characteristics of incense of air pollutants from burning of incense in a large environmental chamber. Atmos Environ 38:941–951

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Lin JM, Lee JK (1998) Vaporous and particulate-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Chinese incense smoke. Toxicol Environ Chem 67:105–113

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Liou SW, Chen CY, Yang TT, Lin JM (2008) Determination of particulate-bound formaldehyde from burning incense by solid phase microextraction. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 80:324–328

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Lowengard RA, Peters JM, Cinioni C, Buckley J, Bernstein L, Preston-Martin S, Edward R (1987) Childhood leukemia and parent’s occupation and home exposure. J Natl Cancer Inst 79(1):39–46

    Google Scholar 

  6. Lung SCC, Hu SC (2003) Generation rates and emission factors of particulate matter and particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons of incense sticks. Chemosphere 50:673–679

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Maclennan R, Costa JD, Day NE, Law CH, Ng YK, Shanmugaratnam K (1977) Risk factors for lung cancer in Singapore Chinese, a population with high female incidence rate. Int J Cancer 20:854–860

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Nisbet ICT, LaGoy PK (1992) Toxic equivalency factor (TEFs) for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 16(3):290–300

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Orecchio S (2007) PAHs associated with the leaves of Quercus ilex L.: extraction, GC-MS analysis, distribution and sources. Assessment of air quality in the Palermo (Italy) area. Atmos Environ 41:8669–8680

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Preston-Martin S, Yu MC, Benten B, Henderson BE (1982) N-nitroso compounds and childhood brain tumors: a case-control study. Cancer Res 42:5240–5245

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Rasmussen RE (1987) Mutagenic activity of incense smoke in Salmonella typhimurium. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 38:827–833

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Sato S, Makino R, Takahashi Y, Sugimura T, Miyazaki T (1980) Mutagenicity of smoke condensates from joss sticks. Mut Res 77:31–36

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Schoental R, Gibbard S (1967) Carcinogens in Chinese incense smoke. Nature 216:612

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Yang TT, Chen CC, Lin JM (2005) Effect of air flow on emission of smoldering incense. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 74:456–463

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Yang TT, Chen CC, Lin JM (2006) Characterization of gas and particle emission from smoldering incenses with various diameters. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 77:799–806

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Yang TT, Lin TS, Chang M (2007) Characteristics of emissions of volatile organic compounds from smoldering incense. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 78:308–313

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank the National Science Council of the Republic of China, Taiwan for financially supporting this research under Contract No. NSC 98-2221-E-264-002. Ted Knoy is appreciated for his editorial assistance.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to T. T. Yang.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Yang, T.T., Lin, T.S., Wu, J.J. et al. Characteristics of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Emissions of Particles of Various Sizes from Smoldering Incense. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 88, 271–276 (2012).

Download citation


  • Incense
  • Smoldering
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Emission rate