The level of cancer-causing particles in the air is much higher in smoky bars and casinos than on truck-filled highways and city streets, according to the first study comparing indoor air quality before and after a smoking ban.
The survey, conducted in a casino, six bars and a pool hall in Wilmington, Del., between November 2002 and January 2003, appears in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
"This research clearly shows that it is far worse for your health to be a bartender or casino dealer in a smoking-permitted establishment than it is to be a turnpike toll collector," said James L. Repace, a visiting assistant clinical professor at Boston's Tufts University School of Medicine.
Workers in the establishments breathed 90 percent cleaner air after the ban was imposed to guarantee smoke-free workplaces, Repace said, adding, "Ventilation measures are doomed to failure."
In the eight venues Repace surveyed before the ban, indoor levels of fine particles that can penetrate deep into people's lungs and cause respiratory problems were 20 times greater than the outdoors and 4.6 times higher than the level permitted under the Environmental Protection Agency's national ambient air quality guidelines. Hospitality workers were exposed to concentration levels that were 2.6 times higher than those Repace measured on Boston streets and Interstate 95 in Delaware.
After the ban, however, indoor air quality matched outdoor levels, with the exception of a concentration of chalk dust in the pool hall.
"Only a smoke-free workplace law can protect the health of these workers," Repace said.