Educational Articles Additional articles can be found at GASP of Colorado

Denver Bar Smoking Was Worse than the Brown Cloud

A 2004 report Finds Air in Denver Bars Worse Than Brown Cloud

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Denver bar workers may be breathing the same quality air that was experienced during the 2002 Hayman Fire, according to a report from Denver Public Health based on measurements conducted by Anderson and Associates, a Littleton-based air quality consulting firm, with assistance from the Denver Department of Environmental Health.

Air sampling was conducted for one hour in 22 randomly selected Denver bars during Tuesday and Friday evenings this past April and May. Three bars were smoke-free. Nicotine and fine particulate pollution from cigarette smoke were detected in each of the 19 smoking bars. All but two of the smoking bars had particulate pollution levels that reached or exceeded average outdoor levels on a typical winter "brown cloud" day.

Four bars registered peak levels of particulate pollution that were higher than June 9, 2002 during the Hayman Fire--the highest one-hour level ever recorded for fine particulate pollution in Denver (200 micrograms per cubic meter).

"The majority of bar workers in Denver are breathing polluted, unhealthy air every working day," said Bonnie Mapes, Denver Public Health\'s Tobacco Control Program administrator. "Seventy percent of Denver\'s work force are employed in smoke-free environments, while bar and restaurant workers have no protection under Denver\'s current law."

Fine particulate pollutants are microscopic particles less than 2.5 micrometers in size, considerably smaller than most dust grains. Particles of this size are released in significant amounts by burning cigarettes. They are easily inhaled and can have serious health effects, including reduced lung function, increased respiratory illness and exacerbation of asthma. Several studies, including recent research by Dr. Stanton Glantz, a cardiologist with the University of California San Francisco, have shown that exposure of as little as one hour to elevated levels of particulates has been linked to heart attacks in people with heart disease.

Ventilation in the majority of bars was adequate and was not a major factor influencing particulate and nicotine levels. While four of the bars sampled did not meet the national standard indicating adequate ventilation (carbon dioxide levels under 1,000 ppm), only one bar with poor ventilation had high levels of nicotine and particulates. Particulate levels were, however, clearly related to the number of smokers present.

One smoker in a bar was enough to raise the particulate level to moderate or high (above 50 micrograms per cubic meter), and no bar with two or more smokers showed a low level. Peak particulate levels measured in the smoking bars were nearly 10 times the highest level measured in the three smoke-free bars.

There was also a strong correlation between the amount of nicotine detected and the amount of particulates detected--the higher the level of nicotine, the higher the level of particulates. The only source for nicotine in the air is tobacco smoke.

Working towards creating a safe and healthy workplace free of tobacco smoke.