Occupational exposure to environmental tobacco smoke: results of two personal exposure studies

Environ Health Perspect. 1999 May;107 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):341-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.99107s2341.


Personal monitoring is a more accurate measure of individual exposure to airborne constituents because it incorporates human activity patterns and collects actual breathing zone samples to which subjects are exposed. Two recent studies conducted by our laboratory offer perspective on occupational exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) from a personal exposure standpoint. In a study of nearly 1600 workers, levels of ETS were lower than or comparable to those in earlier studies. Limits on smoking in designated areas also acted to reduce overall exposure of workers. In facilities where smoking is permitted, ETS exposures are 10 to 20 times greater than in facilities in which smoking is banned. Service workers were exposed to higher levels of ETS than workers in white-collar occupations. For the narrower occupational category of waiters, waitresses, and bartenders, a second study in one urban location indicated that ETS levels to which wait staff are exposed are not considerably different from those exposure levels of subjects in the larger study who work in environments in which smoking is unrestricted. Bartenders were exposed to higher ETS levels, but there is a distinction between bartenders working in smaller facilities and those working in multiroom restaurant bars, with the former exposed to higher levels of ETS than the latter. In addition, ETS levels encountered by these more highly exposed workers are lower that those estimated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Concomitant area monitoring in the smaller study suggests that area samples can only be used to estimate individual personal exposure to within an order of magnitude or greater.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Occupations / statistics & numerical data
  • Restaurants / statistics & numerical data
  • Sampling Studies
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*
  • United States
  • Urban Health
  • Workplace / statistics & numerical data*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution