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Non Smoking Workers Absorb the Carcinogen Immediately

Scientists have found that nonsmoking restaurant and bar employees absorb a potent carcinogennot considered safe at any levelwhile working in places where they had to breathe tobacco smoke from customers and co-workers. The carcinogen, NNK, is found in the body only as a result of using tobacco or breathing secondhand smoke.

Investigators at the Multnomah County Health Department and Oregon Department of Human Services report that elevated levels of NNK showed up in the urine of nonsmoking employees shortly after they encountered secondhand smoke during their shifts. Moreover, levels of NNK, which is known to cause lung cancer, increased by 6 percent for each hour of work.

This is the first study to show increases in NNK as a result of a brief workplace exposure, and that levels of this powerful carcinogen continue to increase the longer the person works in a place where smoking is permitted. NNK is a major cancer causing agent from tobacco productsand workers should not have to be exposed to any dose of this very dangerous chemical, said Michael Stark, PhD, of the Multnomah County Health Department and the studys lead author.

The science shows that the threat of disease from secondhand smoke is no longer a distant threat. The amount of this carcinogen increases even within a single work shift.

In a related study in the same issue of the Journal, experts in public health law note that across the country employers already are being held legally liable for exposing workers to secondhand smoke, even if state or local laws permit workplace smoking.

They warn that as scientists continue to provide evidence of harm, employers could soon face a clear choice: either voluntarily ban smoking in their workplace or face an increasing wave of costly legal actions.

When employers who allow smoking have scientists telling them that as soon as workers get on the job, theyre breathing in some of the most dang
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