Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Particulate matter and the pro-smoking ban movement

There has been a significant effort on the part of pro-smoking ban groups to try to confuse people with air quality standards that simply don't apply.

Some pro-ban groups go into bars after a smoking ban is implemented and measure total particulate matter (pm) they return results that show there is less (pm) and tout to the media "....see there's less airborne dust we saved lives!"

So what?
Total particulate matter readings are meaningless, measuring all airborne particulate matter is no indication of any harmful airborne contaminants. For that you need to measure specific contaminants like benzene, or lead, or nicotine, or chromium, whatever the suspected harmful substance might be.

IE. If I take my laser particle counter into a non-smoking busy pool hall...the total particulate matter could easily exceed 300,000 particles/cu.M. but chalk dust at that level is not listed as a health hazard....so measuring the total PM in a busy bar is equally meaningless...


But measure for the "marker" component of secondhand smoke...nicotine...like the Cal EPA or St. Louis Park, MN. environmental health department did and then you've got a scientific result relevant to the actual concentrations of secondhand smoke. Which in the SLP study proved to be 500-15 times safer than the OSHA indoor air quality safety standards require.

Which brings me to another area pro-smoking ban activists try to confuse people with. They bring up the EPA outdoor particulate matter PM 2.5 and PM 10 standards, which is a standard that measures outdoor partculate levels at 2.5 micron and 10 micron* particle size. These EPA standards are for outdoor air quality, not indoor. Indoor air quality standards, especially in the workplace, are regulated by OSHA.

For additional information on air quality testing see the following links:

http://cleanairquality.blogspot.com/2006/11/when-deceitful-tactics-become-modus.html

http://cleanairquality.blogspot.com/2006/02/air-quality-testing-and-secondhand.html

http://cleanairquality.blogspot.com/2007/04/bmj-published-air-quality-test-results.html

*As a frame of reference the eye of a needle 1/32 inch, is 749 microns.

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