Sunday, 15 January 2012

Safe levels of secondary smoke found in smoker's home

An article misleadingly entitled 'Danger in every breath' claims that an Evening Times trainee editor was told that her smoking did not produce hazardous levels of smoke.

Admittedly one person smoking twice a day in the house produces far less smoke than a 20- or 40-a-day smoker. The current wisdom of the medical establishment is that there is no safe level of secondary smoke. But two cigarettes produce a level of smoke that is not lethal.

The early part of the article refers tests on smokers homes reading up to a concentration per cubic metre of '3000 micrograms – 120 times higher than safe levels' (defined as 25 micrograms per cubic metre, according to the Evening Times article: I am still looking for support on this from WHO). The specific reading for the editor's home featured in the second part of the article is not recorded, but the editor expresses her 'relief' that the air in her home was 'at a safe level'. We are not told how far below 25 micrograms per cubic metre the editor's house was measured at.

Not only was the editor's house measured below the 'safe level': we are also informed that there is a safe level: this admission occurs rarely but I have seen it before in this story, which reported that children in cars inhaled 'three times times the amount of smoke that would be considered safe to inhale over the course of a day'.

Environmental tobacco smoke is not listed in the 2005 document Workplace exposure limits (EH40). Other readers will be more familiar with some of the chemicals listed here than I am, but I did note that flour dust is recorded with a value of 30 mcg per cubic metre (long-term exposure limit) or 10 mcg per cubic metre (short-term exposure limit).

It seems curious in the light of so much publicity and pressure for legislation surrounding secondary smoke that smoke is not listed in the WEL document (which was updated in 2011). The word 'smoking' is used only once, as a 'complicating factor' in considering workplace exposure. (Nicotine is listed with a lower limit of 0.5 mcg/m3 , far lower than the limit given for smoke.) The words 'smoke' and 'tobacco' don't appear.

Many unresolved issues remain: if every other substance under the sun, including those with exposure limits that are less than 1 microgram per cubic metre can be listed in a document called 'Workplace exposure limits', why not smoke? And (of course) why is smoke the only substance commonly described of having 'no safe level of exposure'?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

and what about anthony mcdermoot who was persecuted bullied and abused by his workmates at mettler-toledo safeline salford because he was a smoker and commited suicide by hanging who is accountable