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Accordions Breathe Easier Since Smoking Ban

And that's good news for the pub musicians who play them, Irish researchers say

THURSDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Banning smoking in bars is not only salve for the lungs, it is music to the ears.

A smoking ban in Irish workplaces has improved air quality in Irish pubs as well as the health of musical instruments -- such as accordions -- and the people who play them, research suggests.

"Research to date looking at the health effects of the smoking ban on hospitality workers in Ireland has focused mainly on bar staff," said Dr. John Garvey, specialist registrar in respiratory medicine at St. Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin.

Garvey, who plays the accordion, is co-author of a letter to the editor detailing the accordian findings in the Sept. 29 issue of the British Medical Journal.

"It's a remarkable analogy in that you've got an instrument that's basically performing much the same way as the lung and responding much the same way as the lung," added Kirby Donnelly, head and associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health.

The Irish government banned smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, on March 29, 2004.

A study that appeared earlier this year in then American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found a significant reduction in air pollution in pubs and an improvement in respiratory symptoms in Irish bar workers after the ban.

Musicians, including Garvey, frequently gather at pubs to play traditional music together. In addition to the accordion, these pub sessions feature concertina, melodeon and Uilleann (Irish) bagpipes, all of which are bellows-driven.

Anecdotal evidence had suggested that accordions subjected to heavy smoke collected particles inside, much like a person's lungs would.

Garvey and his colleagues conducted a telephone survey of all workers (a total of seven) involved in the cleaning, repair, maintenance and renovation of accordions in the Republic of Ireland. Six of the seven workers were interviewed.

Those interviewed noted that, when opened, accordions that had been played in smoke-filled rooms emitted a strong cigarette odor. Deposits of soot-like dirt were also found inside the instruments. One worker interviewed said that, in some cases, enough dirt could be deposited in the instrument to affect the pitch.

All interviewees said that both the cigarette smell from accordions and the dirt residue inside had improved since the smoking ban.

"There's no question that there's a lot of secondhand smoke in bars, and the Irish have gotten rid of it, and people are feeling better," said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. "We know that banning smoking in bars improves health."

Of humans and, it seems, accordions.

More information

Visit the American Lung Association for more on secondhand smoke.

SOURCES: John Garvey, MB, specialist registrar in respiratory medicine, St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland; Norman Edelman, M.D., chief medical officer, American Lung Association, New York City; Kirby Donnelly, Ph.D., head and professor of environmental and occupational health, Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health; Sept. 29, 2007, British Medical Journal

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