Outdoor Secondhand Smoke

Studies reveal the hidden dangers behind outdoor secondhand smoke exposure. A 2006 U.S. Surgeon General's Report claims secondhand smoke kills tens of thousands of people each year, and it has long been claimed that second hand smoke can be dangerous through indoor exposure. However little is known about the risks of outdoor inhalation. Recent research from Stanford University examines how smoking can affect the quality of air at park benches, sidewalk cafes and other public places. Researchers concluded that sitting a few feet downwind of a smoker can leave someone exposed to contaminated fumes that are much more concentrated than normal air pollution levels.

To accurately quantify the level of outdoor smoke exposure, Stanford Researchers used portable electronic monitors to measure toxic airborne particles. These instruments are designed to detect a hazardous chemical known as particulate matter-2.5 (PM2.5).

This toxic pollutant contains carcinogens amongst other chemicals that may contribute to chronic bronchitis, irregular heartbeats, heart attacks and an assortment of other health conditions. The outcome of the study found that the closer you are to outdoor tobacco smoke, the higher your risk of hazardous inhalation.

They found that brief exposures, multiple times over several hours in an outdoor pub, could lead to a daily average of 35 micrograms of PM2.5 exposure. If someone is in close proximity to a smoker, they could potentially inhale a breath of 1,000 micrograms, which is 50 times more concentrated than the surrounding air. Researchers warn that although outdoor secondhand smoke dissipates quickly, non-smokers should still be aware of their exposure.


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