Indoor air pollution levels plummeted by 84 percent in Sedalia’s public places just two months after implementation of a smokefree ordinance according to a report by the University of Missouri-Columbia. Researchers conducted air quality assessments in workplaces and public places before and after the city’s smokefree ordinance went into effect and found significant reductions in levels of fine particulate matter pollution.
The report found places which allowed smoking before the ordinance went into effect had an average air quality level rated as “unhealthy” according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Index. Full-time employees in such places were exposed to 136 percent of the EPA’s average annual daily limit for this pollutant.
After the city’s smokefree ordinance was in effect, the average air quality for the same locations was found to be rated as “good.”
“By itself, fine particulate matter pollution is a serious health concern because these particles are easily inhaled deep into the lungs and can aggravate respiratory conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis, as well as cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attacks and strokes,” said Jeanean Sieving, Clean Air Sedalia. “However, because tobacco smoke is the primary source of this type of pollution in indoor settings, high numbers of fine particulate matter are also an indicator of the hundreds of poisons and cancer-causing chemicals present in secondhand smoke.”
The EPA has determined that exposure to this kind of air pollution can be a cause for heart attacks among other negative health effects. A number of studies, including one from the Institute of Medicine, found an average 14-17 percent decline in hospital admissions for heart attacks within the first year among communities that implemented an ordinance for smokefree public places and workplaces.
“Smokefree ordinances are first and foremost an issue of public health,” added Sieving. “A 14 to 17 percent decline in heart attacks documented in other communities is a major benefit for public health, not only in preventing needless suffering and deaths, but also in preventing avoidable costs of hospitalizations, medications, rehabilitation, lost productivity and lost wages.”
Sieving also noted, “Other research has shown after passing a smokefree ordinance the community found significant declines in respiratory symptoms among bar workers for wheezing, shortness of breath, morning cough, and eye and throat irritation. Improvements were even seen among bar workers that were smokers since they were no longer exposed to smoke during their work shifts.”