The Mason County Health Coalition on Friday unveiled the findings from a 2017 study of the indoor air quality in the county, pushing for a smoke-free law in the county.
The study, conducted by Dr. Ellen J. Hahn, Kiyoung Lee and Amanda Bucher of BREATHE from the University of Kentucky, showed that the the indoor air quality of Mason County is about 4.4 times worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for the outdoors set by the EPA.
This means, essentially, that the air citizens of Mason County breathe while they are indoors is 4.4 times more polluted than the standard set by the EPA for outdoor air.
“Workers in Mason County are being exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution inside of workplaces,” Bucher said to the Health Coalition.
The study and the Health Coalition believe that second hand smoke is a big contributor to this issue. The group wants a smoke-free ordinance to be enacted by the city and county.
“One California study showed an 82 percent average decline in air pollution after smoking was prohibited,” the study stated.
In the BREATHE study, 10 workplaces were tested using a sample of the air taken with a TSI SidePak AM510 Personal Aerosol Monitor, which is used to record levels of breathable particles in the air.
Bucher made sure to stress that the measurements found in the study is not air pollution from just any source.
“I can tell you that the particles you can smell with your nose are much, much larger particles,” Bucher said. “Oftentimes you can even see those particles. Those particles, this machine can’t even capture because they’re too big.”
The study goes on to show numbers of Lexington, which implemented a smoke-free law on April 27, showed a 91 percent improvement in indoor air quality after the law was passed. The quality is even lower than the EPA standard for outdoor air.
Currently there are 45 communities in Kentucky with some form of smoke-free ordinance, including Lexington, Frankfort and Woodford County.
The coalition says that not only will a smoke-free law help keep people healthy, it will also jump start the economy in the area.
I would like to tell you this will give us a competitive edge over Morehead, Somerset, Ashland and Paducah, and all of these places that are getting industries that we want and attracting young talent that we want, but I can’t tell you that,” said Ellen Cartmell of the Maysville Young Professionals Network. “Do you want to know why? Because they’re already doing it. Letcher County passed a smoke free policy ten years ago. We are still behind the curve on this.”
According to Cartmell, four times as many people in the United States died from second hand smoking than heroin overdose.
She spoke directly to members of local government at the meeting, and said that there was an obvious problem that needs to be addressed.
“We know that passing a smoke-free ordinance that protects people who don’t smoke will save lives,” Cartmell said. “This is an issue we’ve been talking about for over three decades. We have an answer. We know what to do.”
According to a survey of Mason County voters, 60 percent of those who responded to the survey were in favor of a smoke-free law.
“Elected representatives kind of have two schools of thought when it comes to their positions,” Cartmell said. “The first is that they can ask their voters ‘what do you think’ and vote on those lines. The other option is to acknowledge that not every voter has the capacity to research, come to meetings like this and analyze all of the information and make an informed decision. Therefore, they feel their responsibility as an elected official is to do what is right for them. This to me is an answer that is both. It’s what the people want and what the people need.”