Risk assessment for heart disease and workplace ETS exposure among nonsmokers

Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Dec;107 Suppl 6(Suppl 6):859-63. doi: 10.1289/ehp.99107s6859.


In 1994 the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) published a study of risk assessment for heart disease and lung cancer resulting from workplace exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) among nonsmokers. This assessment is currently being revised. The present article considers different possible approaches to a risk assessment for heart disease among nonsmokers resulting from workplace ETS exposure, reviews the approach taken by OSHA in 1994, and suggests some modifications to that approach. Since 1994 the literature supporting an association between ETS exposure and heart disease among never smokers (sometimes including long-term former smokers) has been strengthened by new studies, including some studies that have specifically considered workplace exposure. A number of these studies are appropriate for inclusion in a meta-analysis, whereas a few may not be due to methodological problems or problems in exposure definition. A meta-analysis of eight relative risks (either rate ratios or odds ratios) for heart disease resulting from workplace ETS exposure, based on one reasonable selection of appropriate studies, yields a combined relative risk of 1.21 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-1.41). This relative risk, which is similar to that used by OSHA in 1994, yields an excess risk of death from heart disease by age 70 of 7 per 1000 (95% CI 0.001-0.013) resulting from ETS exposure in the workplace. This excess risk exceeds OSHA's usual threshold for regulation of 1 per 1000. Approximately 1,710 excess ischemic heart disease deaths per year would be expected among nonsmoking U.S. workers 35-69 years of age exposed to workplace ETS.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Occupational Health / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*
  • United States
  • United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration / standards
  • Workplace*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution