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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Show 11 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Nov. 26, 2004 5:56 AM ET USA

    What's next? Arthritis from all of our kneeling? That's right. We don't do that any more. The liturgists have "saved" us once again.

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Nov. 23, 2004 3:53 PM ET USA

    so, was that parafin or 100% beeswax?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 22, 2004 9:55 PM ET USA

    So - can we please go back to using bees wax? It smells better, too.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 22, 2004 6:56 AM ET USA

    I'm sure Mayor Bloomberg is paying attention. Expect a warning to be posted on the door of St. Patrick's Cathedral in NY shortly...

  • Posted by: - Nov. 21, 2004 7:51 PM ET USA

    Obviously, it's the "simulated services" that are the problem. I assume "simulated services" is a shortened term for "Mass of Paul VI interpretted through the Spirit of Vatican II by ICEL." In which case, we can all agree, that the pollution caused by the candles is far less of a worry than the pollution caused by the translators and liturgists. We need to tighten the emission standards for church personnel.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Nov. 21, 2004 4:59 PM ET USA

    FYI, the LA Times picked this story up on Sunday. By the way, if all that candle smoke is harmful, how come the churches are always full of little old ladies? How do they get so old if they breath bad air all the time, huh? Tell me that. Huh? And another sodden thought (apologies to the late Herb Caen): this study obviously wasn't done in the US because it mentions incense. At least our ecclesiastical air is clean of that. Alas.

  • Posted by: shrink - Nov. 21, 2004 8:40 AM ET USA

    I have my doubts about this research: everyone knows that nobody attends Mass in Holland anymore, nor takes time to light votive candles. And, didn't Vat2 throw open the Church windows to let all of the old Church air out?

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Nov. 21, 2004 6:54 AM ET USA

    I'll take my chances. JP

  • Posted by: - Nov. 20, 2004 11:35 PM ET USA

    Back up here for a moment. Would Dr. Theo de Kuk and his co-workers have conducted their "research" in the office of a friend of the Left? Like, say, Tom Daschle? But, hey, I'm not suggesting that Tom has high "PM10" levels going on. Let's further ask the question "Has anyone in history died from praying at length in a European Cathedral?" Or even gotten sick? Or looked sick? Or unhappy? Here's a happy thought. What does this profound research tell us about burning candles on birthday cakes?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 20, 2004 7:59 PM ET USA

    I would gladly risk contracting lung cancer and emphysema if I could only spend 3 hours a day in a traditionally appointed and utilized Catholic basilica. The implication of this idiotic article is that people want to live longer and spending time praying in a Catholic church will make you sick and cause you to die younger ... ergo, don't go to church and light those candles and breathe that incense. Stay home and watch Oprah. Sorry, I'll take my chances with lung cancer.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Nov. 20, 2004 2:14 PM ET USA

    Was this research paid for by the manufacturers of those electric "votive candles" that attained a small degree of popularity in the '70's? The ones where you put a quarter in a slot and the light began to flicker for a few minutes? Long enough for a couple of decades of the Rosary, if you prayed fast. The excuse then was that they wouldn't smoke up the church so it wouldn't need cleaning every 50 years or so.