NIOSH Study: Casino Workers Face Toxic Conditions

A new report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) shows workers in Las Vegas casinos are exposed to dangerous levels of secondhand smoke at work. NIOSH recommends making casinos 100 percent smoke-free to ensure indoor air within casinos is safe for workers to breathe.

In 2005, blackjack dealers working in three Las Vegas casinos stepped forward and filed a NIOSH workplace Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) request asking NIOSH to investigate secondhand tobacco smoke in their workplaces. NIOSH responded with a research team that conducted indoor air quality tests and biomarker assessments on 124 card dealers in Bally's, Caesars Palace and Paris casinos on the Las Vegas strip.

Researchers found secondhand smoke components in the air including nicotine, 4-vinyl pyridine, solanesol, benzene, toluene, p-dichlorormethane and formaldehyde. In addition, urinary testing of workers after their shifts indicated cancer-causing toxins in secondhand smoke were absorbed into workers' bodies. The NIOSH report authors concluded that the "best means of eliminating workplace exposure to [secondhand smoke] is to ban all smoking in the casinos."

Teresa Price, a casino worker who filed the original complaint with NIOSH in 2005, was relieved the report was finally released. "We knew we were being exposed to dangerous levels of secondhand smoke, so we filed the request with NIOSH. We just didn't know how worried we should be. Now we know and I'm horrified," she said. "We were working day in and day out, breathing in toxins all day and night without knowing the extent of the danger. No one should have to work like that.”

The Same Rights

Cynthia Hallett, executive director of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, said, "Casino workers deserve the same rights as other workers, including the right to a healthy safe workplace, free from toxic secondhand smoke. After the release of this report, we hope to see casino workers protected by strong smoke-free workplace laws throughout the country."

Nevada's current smoke-free workplace law does not cover the gaming areas of casinos. In fact, Nevada legislators are now considering rolling back the state's smoke-free workplace law even further. Hallett added "If anything, these results should convince Nevada lawmakers to strengthen their state law to include the gaming floors of casinos, not roll it back to expose more workers to toxic secondhand smoke."

Related information from Office of the Surgeon General about secondhand smoke can be found at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/secondhandsmoke/factsheets/factsheet7.html.
Or, read the full NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2005-0201-3080.pdf.

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