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Passive Smoking Risks in Catering Industry

Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Toxicology on the 20th of January 2006: 

Risks for Heart Disease and Lung Cancer from Passive Smoking by Workers in the Catering Industry

Workers in the catering industry are at greater risk of exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) when smoke free workplace policies are not in force. We determined the exposure of catering workers to SHS in Hong Kong and their risk of mortality from heart disease and lung cancer. Non-smoking catering workers were provided with screening at their workplaces and at a central clinic. Participants reported workplace, home and leisure time exposure to SHS. Urinary cotinine was estimated by enzyme immunoassay. Catering facilities were classified into three types: non-smoking, partially restricted smoking (with non-smoking areas) and unrestricted smoking. Mean urinary cotinine levels ranged from 3.3 ng/ml in a control group of 16 university staff, through 6.4 ng/ml (non smoking), 6.1 ng/ml (partially restricted) and 15.9 ng/ml (unrestricted smoking) in 104 workers who had no out of work exposures. Workers in non-smoking facilities had exposures to other smoking staff. We modeled workers’ mortality risks using average cotinine levels, estimates of workplace respirable particulates, risk data for cancer and heart disease from cohort studies, and national (US) and regional (Hong Kong) mortality for heart disease and lung cancer. We estimated that deaths in the Hong Kong catering workforce of 200,000 occur at the rate of 150 per year for a forty year working life time exposure to SHS. When compared with the current outdoor air quality standards for particulates in Hong Kong, 71% of workers exceeded the 24 hour and 98% exceeded the annual air quality objectives due to workplace SHS exposures.

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