An Irish government minister has issued a health warning about church incense. Dr Jim McDaid a junior minister who is a medical doctor, said the health of altar boys and girls was being put at risk from the use of burning incense, particularly at funeral services. Speaking on Highland Radio yesterday in support of the Irish government's plan to ban smoking in the workplace from the beginning of next year, he said: "It makes me cringe when I see that huge cloud of smoke rising right up into the child's face, particularly given the delicate nature of a child's lungs and the level of irritation it must cause." Dr McDaid said he often asked priests to remind Mass servers to shake the thurible over and back so the smoke did not billow into their faces. Dr McDaid said he was not anti-church, anti-smoking or against the use of incense. He explained: "I am not against the use of incense at religious ceremonies, but I think we should be more aware of the potential danger of these things." "We all know that carbon is a carcinogenic agent, and wherever you have smoke, you are actually looking at carbon molecules. And wherever you have carbon molecules and happen to be inhaling them, then there is that chance that you will be doing damage. Responding to the minister's comment, a spokeswoman for the Dublin archdiocese said although there was no official position on Dr McDaid's remarks, any concerns about the use of incense would be taken seriously and subject to investigation by the church. "Given it's been raised, I think it is seriously something that should be looked into," she said. "Obviously anything that sends a cloud of smoke into a child's face is something we would be concerned about." The spokeswoman said incense had been widely used in the past during Benediction and High Mass, but was most often used now during funeral ceremonies, when the priest was performing a blessing over the coffin. Father John McCann, master of ceremonies to the Archbishop of Dublin, was quoted in today's Independent saying he believed there was growing awareness about the potentially harmful effects of the smoke from burning incense. He said: "For example, in a large church building where there is plenty of space, I would be less worried. But in a small church building you have to be particularly aware, particularly if there are servers suffering from asthma."
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