Poorer lung function in workplace passive smokers

August 15, 2001

Non-smokers forced to breathe in their colleagues' cigarette smoke at work may significantly compromise the ability of their lungs to function properly, shows research in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The study involved over 300 men and women employees who were randomly selected from general practitioner records in Glasgow, Scotland. All non-smokers, their ages ranged between 25 and 64. Each person completed a health record detailing levels and location of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. They were also given a physical examination, and lung function was measured using tests referred to as FEV and FVC.

Lung function decreases with age and is affected by height and gender. But after taking these factors into account, and adjusting for socioeconomic status, the results showed that lung function was significantly adversely affected by the amount of environmental tobacco smoke overall. But workplace smoke had the greatest impact.

Workers exposed to the highest levels were up to three times as likely to have decreased lung function as those exposed to the lowest levels. The higher the level of exposure at work, the lower was the lung function. At the highest level of exposure, there was a 5 to 10 per cent reduction in lung function. Passive smoking at home or in a public place did not have the same effect.

The authors conclude that their findings provide further evidence for the need to control smoking in the workplace.

BMJ Specialty Journals

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