Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Post testimony

I testified yesterday at Hennepin county's open forum meeting regarding the smoking ban.

Over the past year I have testified regarding the air quality standards as per the city of St. Louis Park, MN. and the fact that actual secondhand smoke levels in 19 establishments ranged from 500 - 15 times safer than OSHA requires. Yesterday I took a different approach and provided all seven county commissioners documentation of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant activity. These were just a sampling of grants RWJF provided to the American Lung, American Cancer, American Heart Assoc., American Non-Smoker's Rights etc. totaling just over $100,000,000.00.

These organizations then took that money and spend it lobbying our politicians to demand smoking bans, claiming that secondhand smoke is a health hazard. However, what the non-profits didn't count on was the St. Louis Park study which showed the median establishment, Applebees, having air quality 152 times safer than OSHA requires for airborne nicotine*.

The point I didn't get in during testimony was that Hennepin county officials seem to be content with the air quality standards in its factories, where workers are exposed to welding smoke and plasma smoke at concentrations heavier and more carcinogenic than tobacco smoke. At the factories Hennepin county commissioners are content to let OSHA guidelines dictate, however in the bars & restaurants the air quality, even though 152 times safer than OSHA guidelines, secondhand smoke is considered a health hazard. Quite a hypocrisy isn't it?

So the question is, do county commissioners and local politicians care less about the health of our factory workers than they do about the health of our restaurant and bar workers? I hope and believe that is not the case. I believe were it not for the fact that some influential non-profits are bombarding our politicians with reams upon reams of their "studies", government officials would have never taken the secondhand smoke issue upon themselves. That is the reason I provided county commissioners with the RWJF (Nicoderm) grant information. Nicoderm benefactors demand a smoking ban as part of their marketing strategy, however since recent air quality studies show that there is NO health hazard per OSHA guidelines, government officials need to know they don't have to give in to the Robert Wood Johnson / Nicoderm demands.

* Nicotine is the only unique or "trace" chemical in secondhand smoke. If you measured for formaldehyde, the carpet and other interior sources of formaldehyde would corrupt the test result, formaldehyde is also formed naturally in our atmosphere due to photochemical oxidation. Benzene is given off from burning foods in the kitchen and also diesel exhaust outdoors, so again a false reading would be obtained. Therefore, nicotine is the ideal chemical to measure for in secondhand smoke. And then our comparison to OSHA guidelines is the logical manner in which to determine if secondhand smoke levels pose a health hazard. **

**both the St. Louis Park Environmental Health Department and the California EPA Air Resources Board measured air quality for the "trace" chemical nicotine.

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