Don’t Stop at Secondhand Smoke”

October 15th, 2003

To the Editor,

Your article, “The Secondhand Smoking Gun” (10/15/03), mirrors the dangers of foisted upon us daily at work and at home. Yet the use of full strength poisons, wafting about us in smaller concentrations from cigarette smoke, still runs rampant in our environment.

Daily exposure to secondhand smoke is described as a trigger for heart attack, cancer, asthma, miscarriage etc. Immediate physiological responses such as “sticky blood” and respiratory/cardiovascular distress can be measured. These also describe the results of even briefer exposures to sprayed pesticides and many cleaning solvents which are all “firsthand” exposures, easily replaced by safer products. The IBM cases currently in litigation vividly describe the short term effects of petrochemicals and solvents on workers, even before cancer appears (neurological damage).

Let’s take this issue to its logical conclusion. We can reduce our overall exposures to poisons by choosing our products more wisely. If we insist upon full disclosure of all ingredients on product labels, manufacturers will quickly replace benzene, toluene and xylene for safer “inert” ingredients in many items or simply warn us to wear protective gear around them. Only when public awareness of these likely sources for those “tension headaches” at work or that monthly ER visit for asthma (coinciding with the arrival of the exterminator in your apartment building), can we begin to reduce the ever increasing rates of illness and disability crippling our economy and causing so much suffering.

Barbara Rubin

Categories: NY Times

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