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Passive risk: EPA loads anti-smoking gun.

Passive risk: EPA loads anti-smoking gun

Tobacco smoke inhaled by non-smokers may soon join the small but deadly club of "known human carcinogens" such as arsenic and asbestos. In a draft report unveiled June 25, EPA names environmental tobacco smoke the tenth such substance and cites passive smoking as causing an estimated 3,800 U.S. lung cancer deaths annually. EPA simultaneously released another draft document recommending that employers either forbid indoor smoking or provide "enclosed, separately ventilated smoking rooms." The new reports, which must still clear EPA's science advisory board, mark the first time the agency has estimated passive smoking's death toll and advised employers on handling the issue, says EPA spokesman Dave Ryan.

EPA based its risk estimate on a review of 24 epidemiologic studies from eight countries and on two 1986 reports by the National Research Council and the Surgeon General, which blamed passive smoking as a cause of lung cancer and linked parents' smoking to lung disease in children (SN: 11/22/86, p.325; 1/10/87, p.25).

A wave of regulations followed the 1986 reports, including the ban on smoking on domestic U.S. air flights. Yet the nation has no comprehensive workplace standard, and EPA lacks the legal authority to create one, Ryan says. For now at least, that power rests with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The new reports will put pressure on OSHA to come up with such a standard, says Davitt McAteer of the Occupational Safety and Health Law Center, a public-interest law firm in Washington, D.C. Indeed, says OSHA spokesman Frank Kane, OSHA is now considering making "the first step toward a standard."

But a House bill introduced on June 28 threatens to preempt OSHA's move. If passed, it would repeal the exemption to the Toxic Substances Control Act that forbids EPA from issuing any regulations involving tobacco.
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Title Annotation:passive smoking
Author:Weiss, Peter L.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 7, 1990
Words:313
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