Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Carcinogens in Chinese Incense Smoke


CONSIDERATION of the high incidence of naso-pharyngeal cancer among the Chinese1 led us to search for carcinogenic constituents in condensates from burning Chinese incense. Using thin-layer arid column chromatography, several polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, including 3,4-benzopyrene, have been detected by ultraviolet absorption spectra. The 3,4-benzopyrene content was estimated fluorimetrically2 to be of the order 0.4 μg/stick of incense. The free radical content of the tar condensates was estimated by Dr A. Horsfield of Varian Associates Ltd. to be approximately 1.3 × 1015 stable electrons/g (comparable with the figure 1 × 1015/g obtained for cigarette tar3).


  1. 1

    Cancer of the Nasopharynx, UICC Monograph Series, 1 (edit. by Muir, C. S., and Shanmugaratnam, K.) (Munksgaard, Copenhagen, 1967).

  2. 2

    Dubois, L., and Monkman, J. L., Intern. J. Air Water Pollution, 9, 131 (1965).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Lyons, M. J., Gibson, J. F., and Ingram, D. J. E., Nature, 181, 1003 (1958).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Heath, D. F., and Jarvia, J. A. E., Analyst, 80, 613 (1955).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Preussmann, R., Neurath, G., Wulf-Lorentzen, G., Daiber, D., and Hengy, H., Z. Anal. Chem., 202, 187 (1964).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

SCHOENTAL, R., GlBBARD, S. Carcinogens in Chinese Incense Smoke. Nature 216, 612 (1967).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing