Research proves danger of secondhand smoke in air
Recent research performed by scientists at Roswell Park Cancer Institute of Buffalo have reached significant conclusions about indoor air quality in New York a full year after the city and its mayor banned smoking in all bars and restaurants. The conclusi
The average concentration of these tiny particles of soot was 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Most health experts would suggest that even this number is suboptimal. For instance, one finds lower concentrations at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel at rush hour.
This certainly reflects the significant pollution in New York City's air. Importantly, it is a far cry from cities where smoking is still allowed in bars and restaurants.
Scientists found that in those venues in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities displayed an average particulate concentration of almost 300 micrograms per cubic meter with some even topping out at 1,000 micrograms.
In addition to the soot and particulates in the air, secondhand smoke contains carbon monoxide and a group of carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry defines PAHs as a group of more than 100 different chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage or other organic substances like tobacco or charbroiled meat. The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that some PAHs may reasonably be ex-pected to be carcinogens, and anyone exposed to secondhand smoke inhales these substances.
Many studies support the notion that secondhand smoke poses a great risk of cancer and heart disease for those chronically exposed, as well as triggering numerous respiratory ailments.
Bars that suggest that they have good airflow systems and can be exempt from the ban in New York State have also been tested for air quality. These bars that have high ceilings and ventilation still show that their particulate concentration is twice those of bars that prohibit smoking.
In a survey, some nonsmokers said that they did not mind smoking by others and opposed any infringement on the rights of smokers while some smokers said that they would be happy to see a ban. I wonder if those with liberal feelings on smoking understand the level of pollution that they are exposed to in these settings and might change their minds if they knew the medical repercussions.
It is encouraging that a number of smokers, when questioned, approved of nonsmoking laws and saw it as a potential benefit for themselves by motivating them to smoke less.
It is imperative that other cities follow suit with what New York City has done by prohibiting smoking from their local bars and restaurants and public locales. I believe that it is critical for our health that we encourage our legislators, governors and mayors to ban smoking in public venues. It is important that we take back the air that we breathe.
Dr. Jeffrey A. Ratner specializes in pulmonary and internal medicine and is in private practice in State College. He is chief of staff at Mount Nittany Medical Center.