04/04/09 Environmental Tobacco Smoke Falls Well Within Safe Limit

James Repace says that “Smoke-free buildings are the only remedy. Secondhand smoke cannot be controlled by ventilation, air cleaning, or spatial separation of smokers from nonsmokers.” and that it would take a “tornado-force wind” to clear smoke from a bar – a notion that even the most ardent anti-smoker should realise is bunk if for no other reasons than a) respiratory illness went UP in airplane passengers and workers after smoking was prohibited because the ventilation was also removed and b) ventilation works just fine in labs using the most toxic chemicals we can think of.

The truth, however, is that SHS in a bar poses no health risk. The anti-smoking group American Cancer Society conducted an air quality test and found (surprise, surprise) that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS/SHS) is up to 25,000 times safer than the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations for clean air. Despite the number going ‘up to’ 25,000, the lowest is went was 500 times safer – so at no point was a room found with ETS that was even CLOSE to breaking the safe limit point.

The test was conducted using nicotine, because – and this may come as a surprise to you non-smokers – nicotine is the ONLY unique chemical since the chemicals in cigarettes are also found in the air and other places, so testing for them would yield misleading results as the test would also pick up chemicals already present in the air. Or, in other words, a smoke-free room has all the chemicals in cigarette smoke anyway, bar nicotine – although you’ll get that from a healthy lunch of potato with tomato. Oops!

Now, for all of you thinking that there is simply so much in the smoke, here’s the truth: of the tests conducted, the highest amount was 940 nanograms/cu.M – a nanogram being 0.000000001 of a gram (or, in other words, fuck all). The OSHA says the safe limit for a full-time worker (40 hours per week, 8 hours a day) is 0.5mg/cu.M. So, to work it out, the results must be compared with the OSHA permissible exposure limits (PEL). To do this, we divide the safe level (0.5mg) by the ACS result of 20 nanograms, which is 0.00002 of a mg. The result of 0.5/0.00002 is 25,000, thus meaning ETS is 25,000 times safer than OSHA regulations. The ACS have an upper reading of 940 nanograms, using the same calculation of 0.5mg divided by 0.000940 we are left with 532. These results mean that ETS is safe by OSHA regulations, by anywhere between 532 and 25,000 times. In short: the ACS data indicates that tobacco smoke does not constitute a hazard to the health of those exposed to smoke, and a government ban on smoking in enclosed places is unjustified.

Further to the above, a letter from Greg Watchman, Acting Assistant Secretary of the OSHA, to Leroy J Pletten, PHD on July 8th 1997 read as follows:
“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.”

Some people believe that a room without smoke is a room with clean air, but this is not the case – air contains less visible pollutants, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, radon and chemical carcinogens. Good air cleaners are capable of making the air in a building cleaner than the air outside, which is polluted with exhaust fumes. Tobacco smoke particles have been measured at about 1 micron – good systems can remove everything down to .30 of a micron. In fact, tests have shown the air in a smoking venue with a good air-cleaning system to be cleaner than the air in a non-smoking venue without one.

So, in view of all this, can someone remind me why the bans are necessary?

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