Friday, January 20, 2006

Government Environmental Health Department and OSHA prove secondhand smoke not a hazard

Comparing the St. Louis Park Environmental Health Department secondhand smoke air quality test results to the OSHA guidelines, side by side:

click to enlarge 1 milligram mg = 1,000 micrograms ug (full OSHA table can be found here)

click to enlarge (actual SLP results found here)

The upper table is the actual partial OSHA permissible exposure limit table for airborne contaminants ie. these levels are the safe exposure limits for humans. You'll note that the nicotine* safe level is 0.5 milligrams mg / cu. M (or 500 micrograms (ug) / cu. M). The bottom table is the actual St. Louis Park test results for 19 establishments of measured airborne nicotine* levels during busy evenings. You can see the median establishment, Applebees, had a reading of 3.3 micrograms ug / cu. M.

500 ug (OSHA safe level) divided by 3.3 ug (median reading Applebees) = measured airborne nicotine* levels are 152 times safer than OSHA regulations ie. In other words NO HEALTH HAZARD as per OSHA workplace indoor air quality standards.

It is therefore disingenuous to implement smoking bans based on the argument that secondhand smoke is a health hazard, that argument has been scientifically proven false, and is a canard.

* (As per air quality researchers) 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 formed naturally in our atmosphere due to photochemical oxidation. Benzene is given off from burning foods in the kitchen or diesel exhaust outdoors so again a false reading would be obtained. Therefore, nicotine is the ideal chemical to measure for to determine secondhand smoke concentrations in the air. And then our comparison to OSHA guidelines is the logical manner in which to determine if secondhand smoke levels pose a health hazard, as you can see, they do not. If you wanted you could measure every airborne chemical in secondhand smoke and then also compare them to OSHA guidelines for that specific chemical, the results would be the same.

OSHA itself has stated regarding secondhand smoke:

"Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)...It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded."

-Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Ass't Sec'y, OSHA, To Leroy J Pletten, PHD, July 8, 1997

Smoking cigarettes can be hazardous to the smoker, no argument there. However, secondhand smoke is not hazardous to anyone, except of course to those who rely on Nicoderm interests for further funding.

Coverage of the St. Louis Park, MN. government air quality testing in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Mark Wernimont

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