Allergies and ETS, The New Voodoo?
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An old friend of my wife's recently invited my family to a beach party at a cottage on Lake Erie. We arrived early and the host was just finishing up some construction work. I was standing outside, near the porch that was being built when I lit up a good old Camel Light. After a few puffs, the host's wife came out and asked me to please smoke further away from the house. Some of the deadly sidestream smoke was apparently wafting into the cottage.
So I moved back a few feet thinking, "Hmmm.... great party THIS is going to be!"
A short while later my wife and I decided to take the kids down to the beach where we smoked peacefully for the next three hours. When we got back to the cottage the rest of the guests had arrived and the party appeared to be in full swing. I noticed someone had prepared a campfire using a lot of dry brush which was almost ready for lighting.
I went over to where I had been smoking earlier, right by the smoldering barb-q pit and lit up again. Someone I knew, a smoker named "Stan", came over to me and asked me to go with him to a spot about 15 meters away from the cottage. As he lit up a smoke of his own he told me that the host's wife, "Betty", had had an "allergic reaction" to tobacco smoke earlier in the day (must have been my Camel), and we had to smoke back where the cars were parked. "Hmmm," I said, remembering the campfire preparation, "it will be interesting to see whether she has an "allergic reaction" to the campfire when they light it..."
There were about five smokers at the party, about 25% of the entire group. We spent most of the evening "partying" down by the parked cars. Every now and then one or more of us would return to the front of the house and make an appearance, "partying" with the non-smokers briefly before returning to the smoking section. During one of these visits I observed that the fire had been lit and "Betty" was actively piling loads of this dry tumbleweed type of brush on the fire creating wonderful thick plumes of smoke.
As she stood there, almost hidden in the vast plumes of smoke I saw no evidence that she was adversely affected. It seemed odd to comprehend that if this wonderful brush smoke were polluted by someone smoking tobacco in the area "Betty" might get sick.
Later in the evening "Stan" told me he had asked, "Betty" whether the campfire smoke bothered her "allergies" at all. She told him she was not bothered by campfire smoke because it was "natural". I guess she wouldn't be bothered if she found rat droppings in her oatmeal either.
I found a site on the web at http://lash.une.edu.au/~drobinso/woodhealth.htm titled, "Wood Smoke and Health References", which provides some information on the constituents of wood smoke (yes, there were actually a few pieces of wood smoldering away in the party "campfire"). From one of the abstracts listed there I quote, "Wood smoke is known to contain such compounds as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, aldehydes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and fine respirable particulate matter. All of these have been shown to cause deleterious physiologic responses in laboratory studies in humans. Some compounds found in wood smoke--benzo[a]pyrene and formaldehyde--are possible human carcinogens. Fine particulate matter has been associated with decreased pulmonary function in children and with increased chronic lung disease in Nepal, where exposure to very high amounts of wood smoke occurs in residences." (See also Health Effects of Wood Smoke.)
I have to say I find it just a little bit incredible that someone who is so sensitive to tobacco smoke as to be sent into allergic paroxysms over the slightest whiff can simultaneously remain impervious to the constituents of wood smoke, not to mention a smoldering brush fire.
Even more curious was what happened later. "Betty" went to bed early.... maybe that brush fire DID affect her.... but once she was apparently asleep we smokers were allowed to return to the brush fire and pollute it with our ETS to our heart's content. Hence, not only did this strange affliction appear to be very selective but it only occurred while "Betty" was awake.
I don't think I'll go to any more of these parties... Oh, not because of the smoking rules.... I'm just not overly keen on billowing brush fires.
The last couple of times I have been camping in a provincial park here in Ontario (Bon Echo and Algonquin) I have been aware that the entire campground is usually full of campfire smoke in the evening. It's kind of neat when it gets dark because the smoke really accentuates the beam from flashlights....
The thing I don't like about it is the smoke tends to irritate my throat.
Also, the smell gets into my hair and clothes which continue to positively reek of campfire smoke even into the next day. Of course, this is easily remedied by a shower and a change of clothing.
This also reminds me of a relative of mine who has been greatly encouraged by all of the dishonest anti-smoking propaganda of late. This individual self righteously applauds just about any and all government violations of property rights in the name of protecting the public from the alleged evils of ETS. One of her fondest complaints about ETS is that she can smell it in her hair and clothes which continue to positively reek of tobacco smoke even into the next day.
But she sure loves camping!
Me? I'm going to turn into an "anti-ECFS activist" and lobby vigorously for the prohibition of campfires.
"Do you mind if I light a campfire?"
"No, do you mind if I fart?"