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Issue 5, 2002
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Concentrations of formaldehyde and other carbonyls in environments affected by incense burning

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Burning incense to pay homage to deities is common in Chinese homes and temples. Air samples were collected and analyzed for carbonyls from a home and a temple in Hong Kong where incense burning occurs on a daily basis. Carbonyls in the air were trapped on a solid sorbent coated with O-(2,3,4,5,6-pentafluorobenzyl)hydroxylamine, followed by thermal desorption and subsequent GC/MS analysis. The carbonyls identified include formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, 2-furfural, benzaldehyde, glyoxal, and methylglyoxal. The levels of the above carbonyls correlate with the intensity of the incense-burning activities. The total mixing ratios of the carbonyls in the temple exceed those in the ambient air outside the temple by 11–23 times. Formaldehyde is the most abundant species, contributing to approximately 55% of the total carbonyl mixing ratios in both the temple and the home environments during incense burning. The mixing ratio of formaldehyde ranges from 108 to 346 ppbv in the temple and averages 103 ppbv in the home during incense burning. These values exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guideline of 100 µg m−3 (88 ppbv) for formaldehyde. The highest formaldehyde level in the temple exceeds the WHO guideline by 3 times at peak incense burning hours. The mixing ratio of acrolein in the temple ranges from 20 to 99 ppbv, approaching or exceeding the WHO air quality guideline of 50 µg m−3 (22 ppbv) for acrolein. Our measurements indicate that incense burning significantly elevates the concentrations of a number of carbonyls, most notably formaldehyde and acrolein, in the surrounding environments. This study provides preliminary insights on indoor air quality problems created by incense burning.

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Article information

28 Jan 2002
02 Jul 2002
First published
16 Aug 2002

J. Environ. Monit., 2002,4, 728-733
Article type

Concentrations of formaldehyde and other carbonyls in environments affected by incense burning

S. S. H. Ho and J. Z. Yu, J. Environ. Monit., 2002, 4, 728
DOI: 10.1039/B200998F

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