Saturday's letters: Rules needed to fight poor indoor air quality

Published March 7, 2014

In recent years, the Tampa community has experienced a huge growth in businesses that profit from selling tobacco products. Many students at the University of South Florida and University of Tampa area can be found flocking to these hookah restaurants, lounges and bars for a "safe" and "risk-free" night out.

Hookah smoking is the use of a water pipe to smoke flavored tobacco, and is primarily a social activity where a group of people shares one pipe. Many people who partake of this practice do not realize that hookah smoking can be detrimental to their health. Since hookahs are used to smoke tobacco, nicotine is still present, along with other dangerous chemicals that are given off during the combustion process.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the charcoal used to heat tobacco in the hookah increases health risks due to exceptionally high levels of carbon monoxide. Compared to a single cigarette, hookah smoke contains higher levels of arsenic, lead, nickel, 36 times more tar, and 15 times more carbon monoxide.

Along with the smokers, the nonsmoking patrons of these hookah lounges face adverse health effects from secondhand smoke. As an undergraduate at the University of Tampa, I set out with former UT student Allison Calvanese to expand on the CDC's information on the negative effects of secondhand hookah smoke.

To collect data for the indoor measurements, we visited 10 hookah bars in Hillsborough County and measured the carbon monoxide and particulate matter levels inside the lounges. We also scanned the indoor environment for the number of smokers, whether cigarettes were being smoked indoors, if there was ventilation or ceiling fans, and if doors were open or closed.

Along with the indoor measurements, we measured our own exhaled carbon monoxide before and after our time spent in the hookah bar. We found our carbon monoxide levels to be significantly higher than prior to the visit, even though we did not partake in hookah smoking. We even had to take breaks from visiting the bars every couple days to keep ourselves from getting physically ill.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's permissible exposure limit for carbon monoxide is 50 parts per million. Some of these hookah bars not only surpassed that limit but doubled and nearly tripled the safety threshold.

As of now, 146 hookah-related businesses are within a 6-mile radius of my school's campus alone. The indoor air quality and the hookah smoking itself should be controlled and monitored to assure that these harmful agents do not surpass the government's safety threshold.

Regulations need to be put forth on the indoor air quality inside hookah bars to protect the health and well being of Hillsborough County's young population.

Michael LaMacchia, Tampa

Navigators help patients manage their health care | Feb. 24

Hospitals and navigators

While independent navigation services offer patients with cancer specific benefits, as mentioned in your article, I feel compelled to let your readership know that the community of navigators is growing and to encourage oncology patients to inquire about this service within their hospital before seeking navigators outside of their actual treatment team at their cancer center. It would be rare today to not have patient navigators — the majority being nurses — as part of the cancer center's multidisciplinary team and serving as the navigator and patient advocate for each cancer patient seen and treated there.

As co-founder of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators, I have been deeply involved in improving the care of patients with cancer for the past 30 years, with 17 years as a breast cancer nurse navigator. Our community of nurse and patient navigators is growing tremendously due to the ever-increasing and aging oncology patient population, the current challenges of fragmented care, our nation's dynamic health care reform, and the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer mandate requiring National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers to have navigation programs in place by January 2015.

More and more, navigation services are being offered to oncology patients upon diagnosis, and this is happening within the hospital at which they are being treated. Because these individuals are within the system, they are working as an integral part of the oncology team and collaborating with the departments to develop and maximize the care program. Nurse and patient navigators within the hospital setting are at an advantage because they interact with interdisciplinary team members, coordinate the treatment plan, sit in on tumor boards, identify clinical trials that are being conducted within the hospital system, and generally act as an advocate for that patient within the hospital throughout all aspects of treatment.

Lillie D. Shockney, Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators, Baltimore

EPA's new cleaner gas rule hailed, jeered March 4

A breath of fresh air

Who is jeering the new gasoline rules? Only Big Oil. As someone who in the 1970s had high school PE classes canceled because of the blankets of smog inundating the coastal and inland valleys of Southern California, I thank President Richard Nixon for having the vision to create the EPA to help clean up our environment.

Paying a few pennies more per gallon to help ensure we actually have clean air to breathe is a small price.

Luther Hendricks, Clearwater

Why Putin's Crimera adventure is doomed March 4, commentary

Limited options

Do not underestimate the power of the Russian military machine. If the Russians marched on Kiev, what could anyone do?

John Chico, St. Petersburg

Foreign policy mismatch

I wonder how many people remember a debate Mitt Romney and Barack Obama had before the last election. Romney made the statement that Russia was a "geopolitical foe," to which Obama made the mocking reply, "The '80s called and they want their foreign policy back. The Cold War has been over for 20 years."

Then we have John Kerry at the Democratic convention saying, "Mitt Romney talks like he's only seen Russia by watching Rocky IV."

We are now in the position of a KGB colonel facing off with a Chicago community organizer.

James Wallace, Gulfport

These scores don't add up | March 3

Evaluation dysfunction

Thanks to Times staff writers Lisa Gartner and Cara Fitzpatrick for this article. It illustrates what a total fraud and scam the entire teacher "evaluation" system is. Teachers and other educators have been saying this all along, but no one is listening. It should be required reading for our state legislators as well as any parent with a child in Florida's public schools.

Dale Sena, Tampa

International Women's Day

Education is key to progress

Today, International Women's Day, provides an opportunity to focus on the importance of educating all children. Roughly 57 million primary school-aged girls and boys around the world are not attending school. In places like South Sudan, a young woman is more likely to die in childbirth than she is to finish eighth grade.

A terrorist group recently attacked a secondary school in northeastern Nigeria, killing at least 45 students between the ages of 13 and 17. According to Manuel Fontaine, a UNICEF regional director, "When a school is under attack and students become targets, not only their lives are shattered — the future of the nation is stolen."

Could it be that within the U.S. arsenal in the war on terror, the strongest weapon is education, especially of girls? It seems to evoke the most fear. For humanitarian and security reasons, the United States must do its part when donors come together in June to pledge support for the Global Partnership for Education, the only international organization dedicated to quality education for all. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives can take a stand by signing onto the Education For All Act, which strengthens our education policy.

Barbara Drake, Tampa

Pasco takes run at Pamplona fun | March 5

A cruel, wasteful spectacle

What a twisted world we live in, where tormenting animals and wasting tons of food is not only condoned but promoted. Bulls aren't participating in this run voluntarily. They are confused and frightened as screaming crowds taunt them. As if harassing bulls isn't offensive enough, the event closes with the deliberate destruction of 30,000 pounds of tomatoes, as people around the world starve to death.

People should be ashamed to participate in this cruel and wasteful spectacle.

Philip Tripp, Largo

Golf wagers draw eyes | March 6

Trouble with the green

I haven't played a round of golf with friends in 30 years without making some sort of wager. Do the Tarpon Springs police have nothing better to do than harass golfers?

Chris Curley, Sun City Center