A team of researchers visited 64 pubs across the north west of England. They measured air quality using a portable monitor for at least 30 minutes in an area of the pub where smoking was allowed. They found very poor air quality with high levels of particles (PM2.5), particularly in pubs serving more deprived populations. These particles are breathed into the lungs and have been associated with harm to health in humans.
There is no UK air quality standard for PM2.5 particles. However, the average particle levels observed, particularly in pubs serving deprived populations, were well above levels which the US Environmental Protection Agency labels as "very unhealthy" and "hazardous". Average levels of particles in the pubs were about ten times higher than those typically found next to heavily trafficked roads in the UK and in four pubs were about 40 times higher.
Dr Richard Edwards, who carried out the research at the University of Manchester, commented: "We found very poor air quality in these pubs. This research supports the recent House of Commons vote to make all workplaces in England, including pubs and bars, smoke-free overturning" the government's original proposals to exempt many pubs.
"This research confirms that workers and customers in pubs are heavily exposed to pollution from passive smoking, particularly in pubs in more deprived areas. The research also shows that making workplaces smoke free will help tackle the huge burden of ill health caused by smoking, particularly among deprived populations who tend to smoke more."
The research was carried out by a team based at the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and Primary Care Trusts in Manchester, Bury Burnley, and Blackburn and Darwen. The report, "Levels of second hand smoke in pubs and bars by deprivation and food-serving status: a cross-sectional study from North West England", has been published in the online journal BMC Public Health. See http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/6/42/abstract.
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The researchers measured a commonly monitored air quality marker called PM2.5 which reflects the amount of particles in the air. The mean levels in the 64 pubs were 285.5 ƒÝg/m3, and in the pubs serving more deprived populations the mean was 383.6 ƒÝg/m3. In four pubs the levels were over 1000ƒÝg/m3. Typical levels close to heavily trafficked roads are about 20-30 ƒÝg/m3. Average levels of PM2.5 over a 24 hour period above 150 and 250 ƒÝg/m3 are labelled by the US Environmental Protection Agency as "very unhealthy" and "hazardous" respectively.
The study team was: Richard Edwards (now at University of Otago, New Zealand), Judy Hart, Martie Van Tongeren, all University of Manchester; Christian P Hasselholdt and Adrian FR Watson, of Manchester Metropolitan University; Kim Hargreaves, East Lancashire Public Health Network; Claire Probert, North West ASH; Richard Holford, Manchester Public Health Development Service.
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