Sunday, June 20, 2010

Springfield Air Quality Monitoring Study

Dear Springfield City Council members,

I want to warn you concerning the "Springfield Air Quality Monitoring Study" being used by the group One Air Alliance to push for a Springfield smoking ban. A similar study was used by Smoke Free St. Louis City to push for a St. Louis smoking ban. Both studies achieve startling conclusions by misapplying the EPA’s Air Quality Index. Both studies take the EPA outdoor standard, a standard set to reflect 24 hour outdoor air conditions, and use that standard to judge the safety of indoor workplace air, a use for which it was never designed and never intended.

In the "Springfield Air Quality Monitoring Study", ten Springfield establishments that allow smoking were found to have on average level 162 ug/m3 of pm 2.5, a level of respirable particles which would be of concern according to the EPA if generally present in outdoor air. But OSHA, the governmental agency charged with the protection of health in indoor workplaces, recognizes that such a strict standard is not necessary to protect worker health indoors. Indeed, if imposed, such a standard would shut down many industries. OSHA allows up to 5,000 ug/m3 in workplace air before it requires a business to clear particles from the indoor air with ventilation or filtration. Clearly, Springfield bars and restaurants are already well within OSHA air safety standards.

Of course, any bar or restaurant would do well to install the best ventilation and filtration technology available. Affordable air filtration machines are readily available that remove even the finest airborne particulates and that can make the air of a bar or restaurant that allows smoking cleaner than the air outdoors. Would One Air Alliance be willing to exempt Springfield "smoking allowed" establishments from a smoking ban that earn a GOOD or MODERATE rating on the EPA Air Quality Index through air filtration, despite their indoor smoking?

A further caution concerning the One Air Alliance study is that its tests were done furtively, without the permission or cooperation of the tested establishments, with technology that had to be small enough to remain hidden and escape detection, and were conducted in part by inexperienced, activist volunteers. Roger Jenkins, formerly a lead secondhand smoke researcher at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has written concerning the difficulty of conducting such tests even under ideal circumstances, with full cooperation of tested establishments, with the best equipment and a team of trained researchers. (Please see the attached peer-reviewed study.) According to Dr. Jenkins, unless expertly calibrated, testing machines can readily show three times the actual level of respirable particles present. Even measurements taken too close to clothing can cause readings to spike. The inexperience of the One Air Alliance volunteers may well account for the two oddly high readings reported in the "Springfield Air Quality Monitoring Study". Without those two high readings of 237.5 and 829.8, the average reading of tested Springfield establishments would be 69 ug/m3, not 162.

As a researcher for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Dr. Jenkins conducted the largest studies ever conducted of worker exposure to secondhand smoke in bars and restaurants across the country. In a letter to the St. Louis County Council last year, Dr. Jenkins reported the results of his research:

“Overall concentrations of ETS were fairly low: the highest concentration of particles measured in any facility were still 1/7th of the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit, and the median area concentration of nicotine was less than 1 part per billion.”

Please find this letter and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory bar and restaurant secondhand smoke studies attached.

Springfield City Council members, I would strongly suggest that Springfield bars be retested by a professional, nonpartisan air quality testing firm. Given the economic harm Missouri cities such as Columbia and Ballwin have seen due to their smoking bans, it seems only fair that Springfield bars have their air accurately measured and the test results competently interpreted.


Bill Hannegan


314.315.3779 (cell)