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Smokers Toxic to Bar, Restaurant Workers


It's a tip waiters and bartenders could do without.

A potent carcinogen rises quickly in restaurant and bar workers' urine after even brief exposures to secondhand smoke, a new U.S. study finds.

Concentrations of the cancer-causing toxin, called NNK, appear to rise steadily as bar workers' exposure continues, the researchers add.

NNK is "unsafe at any level," according to study lead author Michael Stark, a principal investigator in the health department of Multnomah County, Ore., which includes greater Portland.

"Even with a brief workplace exposure, we were able to detect increases in the level of NNK," Stark said. "On the average, there was a 6 percent increase per hour of work," he said.

Stark said he and his colleagues did the study because "there had been some prior research suggesting you could detect NNK in women and children in homes where workers had smoked."

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Policy Research Program, Stark and his colleagues focused on 52 nonsmoking employees of bars and restaurants that allowed smoking. They compared NNK levels in the workers' urine with those of 32 workers in areas where laws prohibit smoking in such establishments.

But Stark pointed out that "this is workplace exposure that is completely avoidable."

| Tags: Addiction, Public Health and Safety, Smoking Cessation |

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