Florence “Citizen Scientists” Measure Air Quality

January 11, 2019

January 11, 2019

Contact: Jonathan Vorbeck
Public Health Impacts Administrator

Florence “Citizen Scientists” Measure Air Quality

Employees, patrons exposed to secondhand smoke

FLORENCE, Ky. — An indoor air quality study released by a group of “citizen scientists” from the Florence LiveWell Coalition shows that workers and patrons of public establishments that allow smoking are being exposed to chemicals in secondhand smoke at levels considered unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outdoor air quality standard.

Citizen science is the involvement of the public in the discovery of new scientific knowledge. Members of the Florence LiveWell Coalition were trained in the use of small, wearable monitors to collect air quality data in public establishments that allow smoking. Results from air quality monitoring in Florence establishments during January to May 2018 which were analyzed by the Kentucky Center for Smoke Free Policy revealed:

  • Air quality in establishments allowing smoking had levels of the particulate matter found in secondhand smoke that were four times worse than the EPA standard for outdoor air.
  • In one establishment that presented itself as “smoke-free”, air quality was also four times higher than the EPA standard for outdoor air. This finding highlights that voluntary smoke-free policies are often violated.

“As a nurse, asthma patient and Florence resident, the citizen science findings concern me. Just as we do not let anyone pollute someone else’s water, we should not tolerate someone polluting another person’s air,” said Mary Price.

While most restaurants in Florence report that they do not allow smoking, the coalition supports efforts to enact policies which make all public indoor spaces, not just restaurants, 100 percent smoke-free to protect the health of everyone who visits or works in them.

“It is not about the person smoking, it’s about the dangerous exposure to secondhand smoke. We are endeavoring to bring the results of our research to our community – especially to our community leaders. Many cities and counties in Kentucky have enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws. Smoke-free laws give everyone the ability to breathe smoke-free air at work,” said Kristi Rulli, Chair of citizen scientist effort.

The Florence LiveWell Coalition is part of the greater LiveWell NKY effort of which NKY Health is a part. Members of the group include Florence residents and health care professionals. Community groups throughout Northern Kentucky are working to make NKY the healthiest region in the nation. Florence LiveWell has specifically focused on increasing physical activity, improving nutrition and decreasing tobacco use. “As a Florence resident, I find these results disturbing. The public has the right to breathe clean air and obviously this is not happening in some public places,” said Joe Thamann, Chair of Florence LiveWell. “Young people’s first jobs are often in places that allow smoking; restaurants, bowling alleys, gas stations. We owe it to our future generation to make public places smoke-free.”

For more information on the air quality study and efforts to advocate for smoke-free policy, please visit https://www.facebook.com/FlorenceLiveWell/

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