OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Feb. 7, 2000 Exposures to environmental tobacco smoke may be lower than earlier studies indicated for bartenders, waiters and waitresses, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Department of Energys Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
"While people who work as wait staff and bartenders may generally be considered to be more highly exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, data from our study suggests that the situation is more complex," said Roger Jenkins of the Chemical and Analytical Chemistry Division.
The study, which involved 173 people employed at restaurants or taverns of varying sizes in the Knoxville area, concluded that exposures to respirable suspended particulate matter (RSP), for example, were considerably below limits established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for the workplace.
Subjects, who were non-smokers, wore pumps that sampled the air they were breathing while at work for a minimum of four hours. Researchers recorded a maximum RSP level of 768 micrograms per cubic meter. The OSHA standard for RSP is 5,000 micrograms per cubic meter over eight hours. Samples from the subjects were analyzed for ultraviolet absorbing and fluorescing particulate matter, solanesol, 3-ethenyl pyridine, nicotine and RSP.
Other constituents of environmental tobacco smoke, sometimes called second-hand smoke, also were not present in the levels previously thought, Jenkins said. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1993 concluded that average RSP levels were 117 and 348 micrograms per cubic meter for bars and restaurants, respectively, while the ORNL study found those levels to be 67 and 135, respectively.
While the higher estimates in earlier studies may be explained by the choice of the establishments in which the studies were conducted, another reason for the difference could be that todays ventilation systems are more efficient, Jenkin
Contact: Ron Walli
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory