Re: Cigarette/campfire smoke
Ed Darrell (EDarr1776@AOL.COM)
Tue, 1 Apr 1997 16:06:29 -0500
In a message dated 97-03-31 21:41:24 EST, phbrown@CAPACCESS.ORG (Paul H.
<< I don't know whether tobacco smoke or wood smoke has more of these
compounds. I suspect that the wood smoke is cleaner, as it starts off with
fewer chemicals. >>
For a non-physician, you sure sound authoritative, Paul!
>From what I can dimly recall from having sat through the rounds of hearings
leading up to the rotating warning labels on cigarette packages (1981?),
Paul's got most of it straight. Particularly with reference to the additives
to cigarettes. Manufacturers use a wide variety of compounds to add flavor,
most of them natural, and some of them much more potent carcinogens than
tobacco. Deer tongue (the plant, not tongues from deer), file (pronounced
"fee-lay" -- the same stuff that goes into file gumbo), and several other odd
wild plants are used. The manufacturers buy tons of this stuff then hustle
it into their plants where it is seen no more in an identifiable state. When
the Senate Labor Committee grilled executives on the use of deer tongue, they
carefully danced around it. Seems that they may or may not use it, but they
want their competitors to be kept in the dark. One of the great concerns a
decade ago was that apart from tobacco, nobody knows what happens to the
stuff that goes into cigarettes when it is burned. Sugar was one additive --
there was then no research on inhaling sugar smoke, nor do I know of any now
-- outside the tobacco companies. Prof. John Banzhaf at the George
Washington University Law School heads a group whose acronym is "ASH" -- I
think it stands for Action on Smoking or Health. I think Banzhaf might be
able to point us toward a good, brief compilation of knowledge. Perhaps Paul
Brown could make the call (local for Paul).
EPA has done some good research on passive smoke inhalation, particularly in
closed rooms. Carbon monoxide (CO) is probably the greatest danger.
Depending on the condition of your lungs, however, larger particulate matter
from certain smokes may be more problematic for you. EPA used to publish a
series of "criteria" documents which summarized the health effects known for
pollutants, in an effort to develop consensus on air pollution standards. I
believe there may be a series on smoke, and on indoor smoke. Perhaps
someone close to D.C. might try to get hold of the relevant stuff.
One study on smoke damage I read years ago noted that in those groups that
typically have open fires in their homes, the whites of the eyes of the
residents take on a tell-tale ivory color. My very limited experience with a
few Africans from Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria, and American Navajos, Hopis and
Apaches, tends to confirm this. The study said that there is no known
harmful effect that this conditions foretells.
I do not believe any study has ever suggested that inhaling smoke can be good
for a person. It is a question of just how bad it can be. Carbon monoxide
is almost always bad for you, and you can get a fair amount from an open
campfire, I've been told. Particulates that clog the smaller passages of
lungs are always a problem -- carcinogenic by themselves and capable of
carrying other substances that do other damage. The products of combustion
carry a long list of hydrocarbon compounds that can be dangerous -- one of
the earliest classic studies of epidemiology is the study on scrotum cancers
among London's chimney sweeps -- exposure to chimney soot was the culprit.
Activated charcoal, on the other hand, is a good pollutant "sponge." It
absorbs impurities, especially good for poisons. There is a lot of
activiated charcoal around the typical campfire.
One way to avoid harm from campfire smoke would be to carry an uncured ham
around with you. When it starts to look cured, you've been in the smoke too
What a rich, rich, esoteric question!
Ed Darrell, Duncanville, Texas
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City