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Are Cigarette Butts an Environmental Health Threat?

You see them all the time. Cigarette butts on the sidewalk, at the park, tossed out of the window from the car in front of you on the way to work.

Unfortunately, the environmental and human health impact of cigarette waste isn’t fully known or understood.

The information we do have indicates the cigarette butts comprise 25 to 50 percent trash collection on roadways throughout the United States. That’s an amazing  five trillion cigarette butts that are being dumped into landfills  and the global environment annually.

This is of particular concern because each cigarette but contains the nicotine, carcinogens, and pest poisons used to cultivate tobacco. These chemicals are lying around in mass, possibly leaching into our water. The chemicals leached from just one cigarette butt killed half a fish tank in a research laboratory study. Reasearchers suggests much more study is required to ascertain the real dangers presented by cigarettes to waterways.

Concerning research, there hasn’t been much conducted on this topic. Just a few turn up in recent medical literature. A 2014 review, published in the journal Current Environmental Health Reports, was headed by Thomas Novotny, a professor of epidemiology at San Diego State University. He indicates that cigarette butts appear to be responsible for the” largest percentage of waste (approximately 19 to 38 percent of total waste products) collected globally during annual coastal clean ups.”

Dr. Novotny also reports that a detailed review San Francisco street litter determined 24.6 percent of all litter items were tobacco related, including products like butts, wrappers, and packages. Furthermore, bans on indoor smoking have exacerbated the problem. There has been a sharp rise in the accumulation of tobacco product waste outdoors as people move outside to smoke and simply toss the waste away. For whatever reason, another study found smokers to be in the habit of littering the streets with cigarette butts despite having access to trashcans.

Solutions like holding tobacco companies responsible for the cleanup via a hazardous product law or adding a "butt deposit" to the cost of cigarettes may be viable solution sin the future.

Read the full article here: Are Cigarette Butts an Environmental Health Threat? – Ask Dr. Weil