Secondhand Smoke in Bars, Restaurants, Falls Well Below OSHA Limits

A new study shows that exposure to secondhand smoke is less than one-sixth of OSHA's maximum allowable level.

Waitresses, waiters and bartenders are not being exposed to as much of an occupational hazard as they may expect.

The level of exposure to secondhand smoke for bartenders, waiters and waitresses is considerably lower than the federal air quality limits established by OSHA, according to the American Beverage Institute (ABI).

Rick Berman, general counsel for the ABI, testified yesterday in front of the New York City Health Oversight Committee.

He cited a new study which found that exposure to "respirable suspended particulate matter" (which includes secondhand smoke) was less than one-sixth of OSHA's maximum allowable level.

The peer-reviewed study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Laboratory, involved 173 bartenders, waiters and waitresses who were monitored during their shifts in restaurants and taverns that allowed smoking.

In addition to determining that the level of secondhand tobacco smoke in restaurants is only a fraction of the OSHA standards, the researchers found that the levels of secondhand smoke exposure are lower than previous studies indicated.

According to lead researcher Dr. Roger Jenkins, the lower exposure levels could be the result of more efficient ventilation systems.

In his testimony, Berman pointed out that today most restaurants, bars and other hospitality companies are employing ventilation systems that dramatically improve air quality.

"The current accommodation programs have already effectively addressed whatever 'danger' existed with regards to secondhand smoke," said Berman.

The findings of this research will be published later this month in the Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology.

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