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Big tobacco, builders assail OSHA's proposed standards for indoor air quality.

Hearings on proposed rules for air quality and smoking in the workplace have been marked by heated opposition from builders' groups and the tobacco industry, said Frank Kane, speaking for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). After grilling witnesses who favor tough restrictions on smoking in the workplace, Philip Morris withdrew from the hearings abruptly without allowing its own experts to testify. (Philip Morris Pulls Out of Hearings After Questioning Foes of Smoking, Wash. Post, Nov. 24, 1994, at A22.) The hearings began last September and are scheduled to continue into January.

The head of OSHA, Joseph Dear, said, "The rule is one of the most extensive ever proposed by OSHA. The environmental tobacco smoke provisions in the proposal apply to more than 6 million workplaces ... while the indoor air provisions apply to more than 4.5 million nonindustrial worksites."

The proposal would require employers to write and implement air quality plans, including inspection and maintenance of current air and heating systems. In buildings where smoking is allowed, separate smoking rooms with their own external ventilation would be required. During renovations or remodeling, employers would have to maintain healthy air quality.

OSHA estimates that 21 million of the nation's 70 million indoor workers are breathing poor air, and millions of others are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. Both situations are linked to Sick Building Syndrome and Building-Related Illness, neither of which is fully understood.

Opponents of the proposed air quality rules argue that it would cost employers too much money to keep indoor air systems up to snuff.

Glenn Lammi, chief counsel to the conservative Washington Legal Foundation's Legal Studies Division, wrote, "Businesses will spend at least $8.1 billion a year complying with this rule.... Of course we are concerned with workplace health, but as consumers and taxpayers, we must also ask: How big do we want government to be, and at what point does its size render government incapable of solving anything, especially a problem that has yet to be completely defined or understood?" (Glenn G. Lammi, Choked by Smoke, L.A. Daily J., Oct. 24, 1994, at 6.)
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Author:Sargeant, Georgia
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 1, 1995
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