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Study shows secondhand smoke a serious health threat to casino workers, patrons

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Hitting the tables could be as risky for your health as it is for your pocketbook, according to new research from Stanford and Tufts showing pervasive secondhand smoke in casinos poses a grave health threat to patrons and employees.

In the study (subscription required), researchers covertly measured pollution levels in 66 casinos, including three smoke-free establishments, in five states. Combining this data with previously published measurements from three other states, the team developed nationwide averages and ranges for pollution levels inside casinos. An article in today's Stanford Report discusses the findings:

The study focused on two types of air pollutants blamed for tobacco-related cancers: fine particulate matter, which deposits deep in the lungs, and a group of chemicals called particulate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PPAHs, which include at least 10 different carcinogenic compounds. Results show that gamblers and casino workers in casinos that permit smoking are subject to levels of particulate air pollution 10 times higher than those who visit smoke-free casinos.

The researchers also found that ventilation and air cleaning do not control indoor smoke levels. "The only effective control for secondhand smoke was reducing the number of smokers," said Lynn Hildemann, PhD, a professor of environmental engineering and science at Stanford and the principal investigator for the study.

And, if those results weren't enough to get your attention, here's another eye-opening finding:

Less than 2 hours of exposure to secondhand smoke in half of the casinos surveyed is enough to impair the heart's ability to pump blood, placing susceptible casino patrons and workers at acute risk of heart disease.

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