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Standard Interpretations - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Status: Archived

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

March 30, 1990

[Name Withheld]

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.

Sincerely,

Gerard F. Scannell
Assistant Secretary

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Standard Interpretations - (Archived) Table of Contents

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