Devout Catholics 'Risk Lung Cancer'

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 20, 2004

Not, apparently, a spoof. From the pen of Celia Hall, medical editor of the UK Telegraph:

Churchgoers risk lung cancer because of unhealthy air caused by candles and incense, researchers say. The scientists found new forms of "free radicals" that could threaten Roman Catholic rituals.

Well, we didn't need pulmonary oncologists to tell us that. But to return to the article:

Most at risk would be priests and those who work in churches but "worshippers devout enough to spend several hours each day in church could also be affected", the scientists say. After nine hours of candle burning, the normal daily amount, the atmosphere in the Roman Catholic basilica in Maastricht, Holland, had readings between 12 and 20 times higher than European clean air guidelines. The air quality was worse than in an area used by 45,000 vehicles a day.

I can hear the machinery in diocesan liturgy offices across the country going into overdrive: "We can't expose our children to a traditional worship environment -- it's a health risk. Bring on the clowns!"

The measurements were taken in a small chapel and large basilica of the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Basilek through the day, and before and after simulated services. Dr Theo de Kok and colleagues from the department of health risk analysis and toxicology at Maastricht University said they were "stupified" by the readings.

"While we still have to assess precisely what level of risk these people are running and how toxic the newly identified free radicals are, the discovery is very worrying," Dr de Kok said. ...After nine hours the church had PM10 levels that were 600 to 1,000 microgrammes per cubic metre, four times higher than those measured before the first morning mass. ...He found high levels of aromatic hydrocarbons, which are well known carcinogens, and the free radicals "including undocumented ones".

I say we put the undocumented radicals on the first boat back to Libya and get on with the liturgy.

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