In May 28 IssueBy Kim GrahamTimes Journal Reporter
Growing concern for the harmful effects of second hand smoke to the health of people in public businesses, has prompted local officials to request indoor air quality testing in Russell County.
“Partners in Prevention requested to participate in the study,” said Laura Cole, Kentucky Tobacco Policy Research Project Manager. “They wanted to educate Russell County about the indoor air pollution due to second hand smoke.”
Last Wednesday, results from the study: Indoor Air Quality in Russell County, Kentucky Public Venues, 2009 was released to the public.
Lake Cumberland District Health Department (LCDHD) in collaboration with Russell County Partners in Prevention, Smoke Free Initiatives, provided funding for the study.
The study assessed indoor air quality in 9 restaurants in Russell County during April and August of 2008 using a Personal Aerosol Monitor.
Indoor air pollution in Russell County’s public venues was compared to the average levels in Letcher County and Louisville before and after implementation of smoke free laws.
Russell County indoor air quality data was also compared to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard or outdoor air quality for 24 hours. Currently, there is no indoor standard for air quality.
The study’s findings showed the level of indoor air pollution in restaurants measured in Russell County was about 5.9 times higher than Letcher County and 11.1 times higher than Louisville after implementation of their comprehensive smoke-free laws.
Indoor air pollution in Russell County’s public venues was found to be 2.9 times higher than the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for outdoor air.
“We need to protect our workers in these buildings that continue to allow smoking,” said Tracy Aaron, LCDHD Health Education Director.
Secondhand smoke has been shown by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to cause disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke and can cause or increase a wide range of adverse health effects including cancer, respiratory infections and asthma.
“We have a great county here with wonderful people and we want them to be healthy,” said Jerry Westerfield M.D., Russell County Hospital Radiologist. “We should ban smoking in our local businesses and restaurants.”
Already, nearly 20 Russell County businesses have voluntarily chosen to offer smoke free environments in their facilities.
Some areas in the Commonwealth have implemented smoke free laws in public buildings.
“Twenty-one communities across Kentucky are already smoke free,” said Aaron.
The air quality study demonstrated significant improvements in air quality in Letcher County and Louisville as a result of implementing comprehensive smoke free laws.
Currently, Partners in Prevention plans to continue to saturate the community with information about the dangers of smoking to continue educating the public and encourage smokers to quit.
Aaron said about 26 percent of Russell County residents smoke and Russell County has one of the highest rates in the state of pregnant mothers who smoke.
To assist folks who want to quit smoking in accomplishing their goal, help is available through free Cooper Clayton classes offered by the health department.
Health educator Shirley Roberson said health insurance companies usually work with physicians to provide non-smoking help as well.
“Before Russell County is ready for a ban we need to continue education and support for current smokers to quit smoking,” Roberson said.
“We have much education left to do in the community.”
All health officials agreed that safeguarding public health is the primary goal of continuing to promote non smoking in public places. “It really is about protecting the health of the entire workforce in Russell County,” said Laura Cole.
“The focus of this study is protecting workers from toxins in second hand smoke.”
For additional information on how to quit smoking call 270-343-2181 or 1-800-Quit-Now.