Roughly one in five nonsmoking US workers are exposed to secondhand smoke while on the job, according the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Researchers found that 19.9 percent of nonsmokers had some exposure on the job, and 10.1 percent had frequent exposure – defined as twice a week or more. The study highlights the fact that people who don’t smoke may still be at risk for heart disease, lung cancer and stroke through exposure to SHS.
In fact, SHS exposure is one of the top workplace hazards for occupational cancers among nonsmokers in the US, and between 2013 and 2014, an estimated 41,000 adult nonsmokers’ deaths were linked to secondhand smoke.
Secondhand smoke is a known human carcinogen that contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemicals. When nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke, they inhale many of the same cancer-causing chemicals that smokers inhale.
As such, an ever-growing number of US states, cities and countries are enacting laws that require workplaces and public places to be smoke-free. Currently, 27 states have these bans in place – a number that was zero in 2000.
Expectedly, workers in states with stricter smoke-free workplace laws had the lowest exposures.
The researchers said that although cigarette smoking has declined among US workers, workplace exposure to SHS remains high, particularly among workers in certain industries, such as construction.
- Nonsmoking workers in the commercial and industrial machinery and equipment repair and maintenance industry had the highest prevalence of secondhand smoke exposure – 65.1 percent
- The construction industry had the highest reported number of exposed workers – 2.9 million
- Construction, mining, and transportation workers have the highest rates of tobacco use, which can lead to coworkers’ secondhand smoke exposures.
NIOSH guidelines recommend employers should, at a minimum, establish and maintain smoke-free workplaces that protect workers from involuntary, secondhand exposures to tobacco smoke and airborne emissions from e-cigarettes.
“Smoke-free zones should encompass all indoor areas without exceptions, all areas immediately outside building entrances and air intakes, and all work vehicles.”
“Ideally, smoke-free workplaces should be established in concert with tobacco cessation support programs.”
“Enhanced and sustained efforts to protect nonsmoking workers through comprehensive smoke-free laws and implementation of smoke-free workplace policies by employers can benefit public health.”