Asbestos, tobacco smoke, personal freedom

Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Consider this: "The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that asbestos be controlled and handled as a potential human carcinogen in the workplace and that exposure be minimized to the lowest feasible limit. ... The American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists has designated asbestos as an A1 substance (suspected human carcinogen...)"

This and the following comes from the Center for Disease Control at

"The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health considers ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) to be a potential human carcinogen and recommends that exposure be reduced to the lowest feasible concentration. All available preventive measures should be used to minimize occupational exposure to ETS."

Environmental Tobacco Smoke does not "stay in place" like a wall which contains asbestos and has to be measured in a little different way, which is referenced in the Clean Indoor Air Regulations Fact Sheet.

"Comparative risk studies performed by the EPA have consistently found ETS to be a risk to public health. ETS is classified as a Group A carcinogen (known to cause cancer in humans) under the EPA's carcinogen assessment guidelines."

The Surgeon General goes on to say, "Testing nonsmokers' blood for the presence of cotinine, a chemical produced when the body metabolizes nicotine, shows that nearly nine out of 10 nonsmoking Americans (88 percent) are exposed to ETS."

He continues on the subject of public policy, "To fight the establishment of such policies, the tobacco industry tries to shift the focus from the science based evidence on the health hazards of ETS to the controversial social issue of personal freedom. The industry has lobbied extensively against legislation to restrict smoking, and has supported the passage of state laws that preempt stronger local ordinances. (Preemptive legislation is defined as legislation that prevents a local jurisdiction from enacting laws more stringent than or at a variance with, the state law.)"

So, I ask you, are the proponents of "freedom to smoke" really for personal freedom when their track record shows they aim their big tobacco dollars at lobbying for statewide laws which actually stop local communities from enacting ordinances which are effective in protecting the public?

Could you envision this happening in the case of asbestos? A local establishment would say, "You are interfering with me running my business as I see fit to allow me to make a profit. If you make me tear out asbestos it will cost my business too much money and I will have to close!"

Would you buy that one? Obviously not!

Doris Robbins

Juneau Clean Air


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