BENTON – Marshall County residents “are exposed to very dangerous levels of secondhand smoke,” according to a report delivered to the audience at a meeting of the Marshall County Smoke-Free Clean-Air Coalition recently.
Researcher Hilarie Sidney of the University of Kentucky reported the results of a study conducted in May and June, with two volunteers collecting air-quality samples at a dozen indoor venues.
The data showed a measurement of 83 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter, which is nearly 2-1/2 times as high as the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for outdoor air (35 micrograms per cubic meter).
The volunteers used devices provided by Sidney to collect samples of air in places where smoking is permitted.
“I trained researchers to collect the data here in MC and they brought the machine back to me and I analyzed the data and helped get it into our report,” Sidney said.
Rachael King, division health initiatives director of the American Cancer Society’s Paducah office, told the group that secondhand tobacco smoke is “a known human carcinogen,” or cancer-causing agent.
“There is no safe level of secondhand smoke,” King said.
Terri DeLancey of the Marshall County Health Department said the group is a combination of the Tobacco Coalition, established as decisions were made on disbursement of funds from the 1998 tobacco settlement, and the Cancer Coalition.
“Last fall we melded the two together and formed a coalition interested in looking at the health benefits of the community,” DeLancey said.
Sidney’s report included a comparison of the Marshall County data to two other locales before and after regulations were enacted restricting smoking in public areas.
Samples measured in Georgetown were 86 micrograms per cubic meter, but dropped to 20 after tobacco restrictions were imposed. Data collected in Lexington showed an even more dramatic change, from 199 before regulation to 18.
Sidney said the outdoor air quality standard was used for comparison because there is “no established standard” for indoor air.
“The thought is to try to get it as close to zero as possible,” she said.
DeLancey said the local coalition has received funding from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, based in Louisville. The funding is to help educate the community about the danger of secondhand smoke.
“Right now, our only goal is to educate the community on the dangers of secondhand smoke,” DeLancey said. The group has not established a goal of seeking local regulation.
However, she said, the American Cancer Society and other antismoking groups are lobbying for a statewide clean-air statute. A bill is expected to be considered when the General Assembly convenes in Frankfort in January.