Friday, June 06, 2008

OSHA backs up St. Charles City Council

I sent this letter to Mayor York and the St. Charles City Council in response to today's Post-Dispatch editorial:

Dear Mayor York and St. Charles City Council,

Despite what Post-Dispatch editorials say, controversy remains concerning secondhand smoke. According to the most recent Gallup Poll, nearly half of Americans are not convinced that secondhand smoke is a severe health risk. The controversy has been further fueled by a recent UCLA study, the longest-running and highest-quality secondhand smoke study ever done, published in the prestigious British Medical Journal, but completed “too late” (2003) to be included in Surgeon General Carmona’s report, that found no link between secondhand smoke and lung cancer or heart disease.

Furthermore, OSHA agrees with your decision not to impose a smoking ban on the workplaces of the City of St. Charles. OSHA, the government agency charged with the protection of worker health, after studying the workplace secondhand smoke issue for seven years, opted not to impose a workplace smoking ban. So why is the St. Charles City Council being asked to imposeone instead? OSHA has established PELs (Permissible Exposure Levels) for all the measurable chemicals, including the 40 alleged carcinogens, in secondhand smoke. PELs are levels of exposure for an 8-hour workday for which, according to OSHA, any health risk is small enough to be tolerated.OSHA explains that under normal workplace circumstances, secondhand smoke“exposures would not exceed these permissible exposure limits (PELs)”

“Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existingPermissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air ContaminantStandard (29 CFR 1910.1000)...It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded." -LetterFrom Greg Watchman, Acting Ass't Sec'y, OSHA, To Leroy J Pletten, PHD,July 8, 1997

So lawmakers can in good conscience leave the smoking ban decision to the business owner and the free market. Remember, any bar or restaurant owner can ban smoking in his establishment, permanently or part-time, as his employees and patrons demand.

Even better, bar and restaurant owners can install air filtration machines that will not only remove tobacco smoke, but all toxins, pathogens andirritants, including viruses, bacteria, chemicals, pollen, dust, mold,fungi and, most importantly, radon decay products, which the EPA claims causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, seven times more than secondhand smoke is reputed to cause. Commercial air filtration machines are affordable and readily available. These are the same machines that currently protect welders from much more dangerous smoke to OSHAsafety standards; they can also protect bartenders from stray tobacco smoke.

For instance, this air filtration machine is a most effective alternative to a smoking ban in ordinary bars. It can run the air of a 20x40x10 bar through electronic, HEPA and carbon filtration 15 times per hour and costsless than $4000. Its HEPA filtration alone removes 99.97 percent of smokeparticles down to .3 microns and would even remove avian flu from bar air.

I don't work for any tobacco or air filtration company. I just see air filtration technology as the right solution to this public health issue!

Bill Hannegan