OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
March 30, 1990
Dear [Name Withheld]:
Thank you for your letter of February 7, to the U.S. Department of Labor in which you inquired about workplace standards establishing what concentration of tobacco smoke is "too much." The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the agency charged with assuring worker safety and health; therefore, your inquiry was referred to OSHA for a response.
Because the organic material in tobacco doesn't burn completely, cigarette smoke contains more than 4,700 chemical compounds. Currently, OSHA has no regulation which specifically addresses tobacco smoke as a whole because it is such a complex mixture. OSHA does, however, have standards which limit employee exposure to several of the main chemical components found in tobacco smoke. Some of OSHA's permissible exposure limits (PELs) and short term exposure limits (STELs) for major components of tobacco smoke are listed below. OSHA's PEL's are 8-hour time weighted averages of the contaminant concentration in air while STELs are averaged over a 15-minute time period. Concentrations are measured in volumetric parts of contaminant per million parts of air (ppm) or by weight of contaminant per volume of air (mg/m3).
Contaminant PEL STEL Carbon Monoxide 35 ppm 200 ppm Nicotine 0.5 mg/m3 Sulfur Dioxide 2 ppm 5 ppm Ammonia 35 ppm Nitric Oxide 25 ppm Nitrogen Dioxide 1 ppm Vinyl Chloride 1 ppm 5 ppm Hydrogen Cyanide 4.7 ppm Formaldehyde 1 ppm 2 ppm Benzene 1 ppm 5 ppm Arsenic 0.1 mg/m3
If the PEL or STEL for any of these air contaminants is exceeded, corrective action must be taken by the employer to reduce employee exposure to the contaminant. It is rare, however, that an overexposure occurs simply as a result of indoor air contaminants generated solely by smoking of cigarettes.
For further information concerning tobacco smoke you may wish to contact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and request their publication "Indoor Air Facts No. 5 - Environmental Tobacco Smoke." You should send your request for this publication to:
Public Information-Center U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Mail Code PM 211B 401 M Street, S.W. Washington, D.C., 20460
I appreciate the opportunity to clarify this matter for you. If you have any further questions please let me know.
Gerard F. Scannell