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Dulles airport travelers at higher risk of secondhand smoke

Wednesday - 11/21/2012, 8:57am  ET

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In the study, air pollution levels inside designated smoking areas -- including restaurants, bars and ventilated smoking rooms -- was 23 times higher than levels in smoke-free airports. (WTOP File)

Study: Airports with designated smoking areas more polluted

WTOP's Andrew Mollenbeck reports from Dulles International Airport.

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WASHINGTON - Travelers passing though Dulles International Airport this holiday season may be at higher risk of inhaling secondhand smoke.

Dulles International is one of five major airports with designated smoking areas. Air pollution is five times higher in airports with inside smoking areas compared to those that are smoke-free, according to a study released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Even in the areas adjacent to the smoke-permitted areas, the air quality levels were five times the levels in the smoke free airports," says Brian King, an epidemiologist with the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health and co-author of the study.

"Essentially what this document [says] is that secondhand smoke is present in the areas outside the smoke-permitted rooms."

In the study, air pollution levels inside designated smoking areas -- including restaurants, bars and ventilated smoking rooms -- was 23 times higher than levels in smoke-free airports.

"The findings in today's report further confirm that ventilated smoking rooms and designated smoking areas are not effective," Tim McAfee, CDC director of Office on Smoking and Health, wrote in a statement.

"Prohibiting smoking in all indoor areas is the only effective way to fully eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke," McAfee says.

Secondhand smoke can cause heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory problems and asthma attacks among children.

At Dulles, smoking lounges are provided near gates B38, B75, C4 and D30.

Other airports that allow smoking in designated areas include Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Denver International Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport.

About 15 percent of all travel within the United States occurred at those five airports last year, according to the CDC.

Smoking is banned on U.S. domestic and international flights, but there is no federal policy that mandates airports to be smoke-free.

WTOP's Andrew Mollenbeck contributed to this report. Follow @MollenbeckWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)