The Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center (OTRC) has found that concentrations of secondhand tobacco smoke inhaled in smoking rooms of restaurants and bars are remarkably high and harmful to health, in a new study.
According to the research, which has been published in the center's new report "Tobacco Smoke Pollution in Oklahoma Workplaces," the average particulate level measured in restaurant smoking rooms was more than the hazardous extreme based on levels established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The level found in bars was even worse.
Heather Basara, M.D., an industrial hygienist and lead investigator on the research, said: "These levels are exceptionally high and not healthy for the employees and patrons exposed to particles found in secondhand smoke."
Tobacco smoke levels were evaluated based on measurements of very fine suspended particulates in the air, particles smaller than 2.5 microns, which come primarily from tobacco smoke.
The EPA scale ranks outdoor levels of particulate pollution as "unhealthy" at 66-150, "very unhealthy"' at 151-250, and "hazardous" at higher concentrations such as the levels found in the Oklahoma restaurant smoking rooms and bars tested for this report.
"Secondhand smoke exposure is a serious health hazard, accounting for approximately 700 deaths a year in Oklahoma, mostly from heart disease - including heart attacks - and lung cancer. Even brief exposure is harmful. Because this exposure is readily preventable, business owners and public policy makers would be well-advised to act as soon as possible to assure smoke-free environments for all public places and all indoor workplaces," Robert McCaffree, M.D., Co-Director of OTRC, said.
Particulates were monitored using a TSI Sidepak AM510 Personal Aerosol Monitor. Sixty-second average readings for at least 30 minutes were recorded in 67 indoor locations in central Oklahoma; following nationally recognized protocols established by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. Time weighted averages were calculated for each of the locations.