All that smells great is not bukhoor

MUSCAT, APRIL 8 – The scented bricks or agarwood soaked in fragrant oils and burnt in households as part of tradition and on special occasions is an aromatic experience. But the artificial, substandard bukhoor being made and sold in some markets of the Sultanate can harm the users’ health. The longer the use, greater the damage to heath, according to experts.
Many of the bukhoor products being sold are either chopped plywood or nuwud or chipped wooden pieces collected from the carpentry and soaked in scented, oily liquids and sold at a price as low as Bz 500 and above. It is a matter of great concern.
“We collect the chiselled wooden pieces from carpentry shops in Wadi Kabir and soak it in liquids and oily substances for an aroma of bukhoor and are sold here”, a vendor at the Friday Market in Wadi Kabir told the Observer.
A Taiwanese study conducted on the use of bukhoor cautions that artificial fragrance could cause asthma attacks and respiratory diseases, and medical experts have urged that such hazardous substances harmful to health should be checked.
“These artificial incense contains chemical compounds and can cause serious pulmonary inflammation, and the issue is even worse if the materials in the plywood are adulterated”, says Dr Mohammed, a rehabilitation specialist.
“Basically, we all take in some pollutants such as dust, chemicals and dirt while breathing, and on occasions when these substances have a certain density and size, our respiratory system is in danger”, adds Dr Mohammed.
According to statistics, around 95 per cent of oud is being burnt in the Gulf, with Saudis spending more than SR 2.6 billion on this pungent perfume and other GCC countries following suit. It further stated that the pleasant but artificial smell could pose serious risks for those who enjoy its fragrance.
“There are three types of oud available in the market. The first one is the natural wood, derived from the tree, which we use to burn for aroma”, says Hatim Abdussalam, a religious scholar.
“The second one is luban which too is again the natural one and is recommended by medical journals to drink and to apply on the body for healthcare and skincare purposes. The third one is made by Omani women, which is a natural wood treated with perfume and sugar. It can be burnt for a whiff of fragrant smoke and for medicinal and healthcare reasons as well.”
“The artificial ones are made and sold by unscrupulous vendors. It is against the law and religious beliefs. People are making money out of something which is against the legal, moral and ethical values. It should be stopped. Production and sale of only the genuine ones should be encouraged”, adds Hatim.
“The practise of burning bakhoor or incense for long hours in homes to deodor clothes and air is a very popular custom, but substandard or counterfeit bakhoor can pose health hazards with the signs of headaches, affecting eye, throat, skin and overall respiratory system (lung symptoms) producing asthma and allergies”, says Dr Dilip Singvi, a Specialist in Internal Medicine.
“The chances of having these health effects are even more if one has a history of allergy or asthma or skin allergy. Long hours of exposure can even lead to permanent damage and if the quality of incense used is poor, the chances of having hazards is more. The solution? It’s better to use natural bakhoor or incense and of good quality and with proper ventilation at home in order to minimise the health effects”, Dr Singhvi adds.