Thursday, January 3, 2013

Is there no risk-free level of second hand smoke

Thanks to Audrey Silk for posting this on Facebook via NYC Clash-

medical science - Is there no risk-free level of second hand smoke? - Skeptics interesting read..Here are a few excerpts:

Living is full of risk, the only away to avoid all risk is to cease to exist. The Surgeon General's warning about there being no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure is misleading, and ignores hundreds of years of toxicology that show that all poisons have some minor exposure level that is not harmful.

So while it is true that there is no risk free exposure to SHS, there is also no where on earth that you can be free of natural occurring carcinogens. Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation to the General Assembly
11 . Everyone is exposed to natural radiation. The natural sources of radiation are cosmic rays and naturally occurring radioactive substances existing in the Earth itself and inside the human body. A significant contribution to natural exposure of humans is due to radon gas, which emanates from the soil and may concentrate in dwellings.
Since radiation is everywhere, the Surgeon General could just as well had said,
There is NO risk free level of living on earth.

The father of toxicology, Paracelsus said, "All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; only the dose permits something not to be poisonous."
A real world example might be in order:

If you count deaths at all ages, DHMO was responsible for an estimated 3,880 deaths in the USA, more than the estimated deaths each year due to secondhand smoke (3,400 per year).
The above statements are all 100% true, but extremely misleading. If you are currently attempting to protect yourself from the dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide, you will likely be issued a Darwin Award. This dangerous chemical is water.

The EPA says we shouldn't be concerned about lead in our drinking water that is below an action level, but the Surgeon General wants to repeatedly warn us that NO risk free level of second-hand smoke exists. Lead is a carcinogen whether it is in your drinking water, or in your smoke. It seems foolish to warn us about exposure from one source while ignoring the other.

Your food isn't even safe. Bananas because of their high potassium content, contain more [radioactive Potassium] than other fruit. Eating 2 bananas a day for a year would expose you to more radiation than you would get from a single chest x-ray (about 10 mrem).


  1. The U.S. national annual background dose for humans is approximately 360 mrem. A mrem, or millirem, is a standard measure of radiation dose. Examples of radiation doses from common medical procedures are:

    Chest x-ray (14 x 17 inch area) - 15 mrem

    Dental x-ray (3 inch diameter area) - 300 mrem

    Spinal x-ray (14 x 17 inch area) - 300 mrem

    Thyroid uptake study – 28,000 mrem to the thyroid

    Thyroid oblation - 18,000,000 mrem to the thyroid

    Average Annual Total
    361 mrem/year

    Tobacco (If You Smoke, Add ~ 280 mrem)

    Not quite 1 dental xray for a whole years smoking ehh!


    Thyroid oblation - 18,000,000 mrem to the thyroid /shrinking the thyroid

    Tobacco (If You Smoke, Add ~ 280 mrem)

    18,000,000 / 280 = roughly 64,000 years of equivalent years of smoking!

    1. I knew that dental exams exposed you to radiation, but not that much radiation. I'd be curious to know how they came up with the 280 mrem figure for tobacco smoking. There is no mention of the dose. How much smoking = 280 mrem in a year's time, 20 smokes a day, or 5? If it's 20, then 5 a day would be the equivalent of 70 mrem a day.

  2. It's amazing I'm still alive. :> I have a spinal curvature that was discovered when I was around 12 years old.

    Between the ages of 12 and 20 I probably had well over a hundred half-body X-Rays from the waist up. These weren't the panty-waist lung x-rays of the time, but big nasty bone xrays checking out my spine from all different angles from my hips to my ears.

    And, since my family was lower/mid working class we needed to do all this through some form of "Catholic Charities" where the ancient leaky equipment was run by NUNS who may or may not have had proper training in its use. All I know is that there were MANY times when the X-Rays had to be done multiple times because they kept overexposing them etc. Sheeeesh!

    In terms of no safe level, the only real mention of it within the actual body of the 2006 SGR is on page 65 and seems to be more in the context of allergy triggers and has lots of weasel words like "may" squirreled into it. Nothing at all like you normally hear from the Antis.

    Additionally, your point about radiation from nature is quite true. There is no safe level of exposure to sunshine. Even sticking a hand out the door quickly at 6am to grab the morning paper may result in an early and painful death from malignant melanoma.

    The chances of that? Unimaginably small ... very similar to the risks of casual exposure to low levels of smoke. In terms of worker exposure justifying smoking bans indoors, the SAME argument could be used to ban outdoor serviced patio-dining. After all, sunscreen and awnings only provide "partial protection" from the deadly solar radiation. And outdoor patios are neither inherent nor necessary to the acts of drinking and dining, so there's no reason at all why they shouldn't be banned -- unless you realize that it's as crazy as banning smoking indoors.

    - MJM

    1. Michael,

      "And, since my family was lower/mid working class we needed to do all this through some form of "Catholic Charities" where the ancient leaky equipment was run by NUNS who may or may not have had proper training in its use. All I know is that there were MANY times when the X-Rays had to be done multiple times because they kept overexposing them etc. Sheeeesh!"

      OMG!! It IS amazing that you are still here. I'm glad that you are!

      Your analogy of radiation from the sun and outdoor dining is spot on. Add to that the potential harm that we often add to that equation by slathering on gobs of chemical-laden sunblock which in turn prevents your body from soaking vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to aid in the prevention of cancer! D'oh! You just can't win....damned it you do, damned if you don't. I agree that it's crazy to ban smoking indoors when people can simply choose where to dine/drink or not. On another note, imagine the possibilities that are available with the advent of modern air technology. Restaurants and bars that allow smoking could be graded by the level of filtration and a sign could be posted at the front door of the establishment. A grade 'A' venue would most likely attract both smokers and non-smokers alike, while a grade 'C" establishment would most likely feel the need to attract more business by also investing in clean-air technology.

      Maybe the moral to the story is this: everything in moderation, and by the laws of nature, that would have to include tobacco smoke as well.

    2. It's actually quite possible that the air in a well-ventilated/filtrated Free-Choice venue might be SAFER than the air in a poorly ventilated smoke-banned venue. The smoke-banned places will likely have higher levels of cooking fumes, airborne bacteria, viruses, and fungal colony forming units, and generally higher levels of whatever dust and outdoor air pollutants are floating around.

      Yes, the smoke-banned places COULD make their air cleaner by investing in and running high level ventilation/filtration: but how many of them are going to bother doing so when it doesn't make that much of a visible difference? It's only in a Free-Choice pub where you can make a decent judgement on how safe the air is.

      - MJM

    3. Good points Michael.

      You've brought back a memory:

      I was working in a non-smoking (after a recently enacted ban at the time) restaurant. Anyhoo, the smoke was so thick from the kitchen on busy nights that it would literally make me cough and sting the back of my throat. .And mind you, this kind of smoke (the black, sooty kind) is a LOT more irritating than the tobacco smoke that one is exposed to while sitting in a smoky bar. The owner used to allow smoking until city "health" officials came by with threats of fines and revoked permits, etc..

      The irony was not lost on me. Apparently tobacco smoke=bad and black,sooty smoke=OK.

  3. Jred I would assume its a pack to 2 pack a day smoker which seems to be the norm. Truth is something in very short supply today and when you find the truth the Nazis quickly take it down from a health dept. or governmental website. Over the last 5 years Ive seen government web sites change especially CALEPA to the lowered thresholds to back up their claims. As justification they state changing values based upon newer scientific fatcs being learned. What they truly mean is the our information better back up our B.S. claims before we get busted Lying again.

    Look how they changed BMI,then levels for whats considered a disease like high blood pressure,diabetes etc. The lowered standards have in fact created magically overnite Epidemics of disease. One study I have says that those changed standards added over 75% of the American population to the list of the newly diseased epidemics now in america. We know better yet the media,HHS,NIH,CDC,WHO all create phony health problems and blast the arwaves with it......We find its simply their new way to control the herd and institute the new Eugenics movement. Harley

    1. Harley,

      Do you know when (ie., what year) the 280 mrem threshold was first established? That would tell us a lot because there (obviously) was a time when people used to smoke a lot more; and not only that, people used to get a hell of a lot more tar in their cigarettes as well. I think that it's safe to say that there aren't too many people that smoke 2 packs a day these days. Hence, they can't say that someone who smokes 5 cigarettes a day is exposed to 280 mrem in a year's time....and they can't make that claim for someone that is merely exposed to ETS either , as their exposure is quite obviously going to be much, much lower than that of even a light smoker.

      Speaking of "changed" websites.....I do remember coming across a linked study a couple of years ago that has since disappeared. Any attempts on my part to retrieve it have been futile. It was a study that monitored the outcome of bio-markers in light(and ultra light) cigarettes when smoked both on their own and then with a cigarette holder/tar blocker. I specifically remember reading that any claims of covering ventilation holes and/or overcompensating (as has been known to occur with light and ultra-light brands) could not be applied to those cigarettes that were smoked with the added filtration/holder. I, of course, know this to be true from my own personal experience with filtered cigarette holders. Your mouth is on the holder; hence, there is no way to cover the ventilation holes. You would think that there would be a few folks in the health community that would at least acknowledge this fact, as well as the possible benefits that could result from the reduced exposure...Oh, but I digress.

    2. Harley,

      "Look how they changed BMI,then levels for whats considered a disease like high blood pressure,diabetes etc"

      I do remember reading about that as well. Have you read this recent post on Christopher Snowdon's blog about a new (and large) study about obesity that was recently criticized by the BBC?

  4. Here is a little logical conundrum.

    There are harmful substances in water. How much water do you have to drink to receive a lethal dose of any such substance? Can that volume be calculated? Clearly, a person would die by drinking too much water before such a lethal dose of toxins would be reached, and so the question I asked is purely theoretical. Nevertheless, I wish to know what the answer is - "How much water does a person need to drink to receive a lethal dose?"

    The question cannot be answered, and therefore there cannot be established an UNSAFE level of water drinking, therefore, it is also impossible to establish a safe level, other than zero.

    The Surgeon General's claim that there is no safe level of SHS is precisely the same. Concentrations of SHS are so weak that it is impossible to put figures on the effect of exposure, which means that no UNSAFE level can be calculated. It follows, therefore, that no SAFE level can be established.

    The question then arises as to how PEL(?) levels of safe exposure to toxins were established. THERE CANNOT BE ANY POSSIBLE SAFE LEVEL OF ANY TOXIN, if the SG is to be believed.

    But the reality is that none of it matters. It is all propaganda. There really is no point in talking about what is real when we are talking about propaganda. All you can do is just shout, "PROPAGANDA!!!!" all the time as loud as you can.


    1. Junican, there are (at least) three different areas that the no safe level (NSL) thing can be applied to:

      1) Systemic poisons. These can actually pretty much be said to have "safe levels" below which NO ONE ever dies from such exposures and "unsafe levels" where some or all people will die. Some of these poisons (salt, and perhaps arsenic, mercury, and a few others?) are absolutely necessary in small amounts for us to be healthy. But give anyone a cupful or so at one sitting and they'll pretty definitely die.

      2) Allergens: This is actually where the NSL thing from the Surgeon General originally seemed to come from. There do not seem to be minimum levels of allergens where people allergic to particular substances will NEVER have an allergic reaction. Thus you can say "There is no safe level of cat dander exposure because it may trigger a fatal asthma attack." and ban cat-owners from the workplace (unless they agree to on-site decontamination and clothing changes.)

      3) Carcinogenesis: There are two theories of carcinogenesis if I understand it correctly: threshold and no threshold. Threshold theory argues that at low levels the human body simply "defends itself" against carcinogens and that at those low levels there is NO increase in cancer from exposure. The Antismokers prefer the "no threshold" theory that claims ANY exposure increases cancer risk, even if the increase is immeasurably small.

      I *think* the "no threshold" theory is more popular among scientists, but even so, it has to be approached realistically: otherwise we WOULD be banning such things as outdoor patio dining and living/working with nasty dander-shedding cat owners. Even with the "no threshold" approach to secondhand smoke exposure the excess risk from casual exposures one might get from eating at a decently ventilated smoking pub once or twice a week would be below the level that anyone but truly crazy people would worry about: you'd have to go to such places literally millions upon millions of times on the average to "get" a case of lung cancer developing. (In reality it might be more like billions upon billions of times... the "millions" comes from applying the very shaky US EPA standards in the calculating.)

      At least the above is how I understand the no safe level stuff to be.

      - MJM