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Workers Can’t Escape Casino’s Stinky Smoke

October 27, 2009

Two lawsuits seeking class action status allege that Las Vegas casinos Caesar’s Palace and Wynn Las Vegas have exposed workers to health threats from second-hand smoke and refused to accommodate workers who wish to avoid exposure. The suits note that other Vegas casinos have taken measures against second-hand smoke, and note that even pregnant workers at the Wynn casino would receive accommodation only at the discretion of their floor supervisor.

A May 2009 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found traces of a cancer-causing cigarette metabolite, NNAL, in casino workers’ urine. In addition to the known health hazards from second-hand smoke, researchers have recently warned that even “third-hand” smoke – residues from smoke accumulated on hair, clothing, carpets and furniture – can pose health risks, especially to children of parents who smoke or who are exposed to smoke.

Lawyers for the casino workers note that cigarettes are sold and sometimes given away to gamblers at the casinos. Sine the Harrah’s corporation took over Caesar’s Palace, they say, non-smoking areas have been removed from the casino. The lead plaintiff in the case against Caesar’s, a woman who worked at the casino for twenty years, was diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells in her stomach and told by her doctor that she risked developing stomach cancer if she did not quit her job.

Last year, a lawsuit by the California-based nonprofit Center for Environmental Health ended the use of lead in casino chips. The nonprofit’s suit against the world’s leading poker chip maker Gaming Partners International, which supplies 28 of the nation’s 30 largest casinos, cited the risks to casino workers, especially pregnant women and women of child bearing age, from lead, a known reproductive toxin.

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