Emerging Issues - Indoor Air Quality
July 8, 1997
Leroy J. Pletten, Ph.D.
Dear Dr. Pletten:
Thank you for your letter of May 29 concerning your belief that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can help in the 'War on Crime' through the aggressive enforcement of the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000). In your view, this action will eventually reduce illegal sales of tobacco products to children, ultimately reducing the demand for illicit drugs.
Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that, under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000). For example, various studies referenced by Guerin et al. in The Chemistry of Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Composition and Measurement indicate that many substances are well below the individual permissible exposure level [e.g., acetaldehyde values in enclosed places varied from 65 to 1080 g/m3 (Page 295) and acrolein values ranged from 20-300 g/m3 (Page 295-296)]. It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded.
The more central concern of the Agency is that synergism of the chemicals in tobacco smoke may lead to adverse health effects even though the PELs are often not exceeded. The Agency published in a proposed rule in April of 1994 that it is of the opinion that lung cancer and heart disease are major health concerns in nonsmoking workers chronically exposed to ETS. In response to this adverse health risk information, the Agency proposed restricting smoking in workplaces to designated smoking areas that are separately exhausted to the outside. A very large number of comments were received on the proposed rule. The Agency is not yet ready to make final decisions on the resolution of the proposed rule.
I hope this information is helpful.