According to Tobacco Atlas, a partnership between the American Cancer Society and Vital Strategies, 5.7 trillion cigarettes are sold annually worldwide. That’s more than 15 billion butts every day, 65% of which are intentionally littered, according to Keep America Beautiful.

These inch-long, non-biodegradable filters, along with a cigarette’s tobacco, contain more than 7,000 chemicals, according to the 2014 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco and Health. More than 50 of them are carcinogens. And a study by Imperial College London showed they contribute more than 1 million tons in microplastic waste every year. Research also shows those toxicants ultimately end up in our food and water supply, with negative impacts on human health and the environment.

Just having them on the ground is hazardous, according to Thomas Novotny, a medical epidemiologist and executive director of the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project.

“These filters act like a little teabag where chemicals ooze out,” Novotny said. “If they have the remnant tobacco on them, it’s even worse.”

When a cigarette butt leaches into the environment, it can kill. In a laboratory study, eight cigarette butts were soaked in approximately 8 ½ cups of water for 24 hours. Fish were placed in this leachate stock and by the fourth day, half of them had died.

On land, children and pets often pick up butts from the ground and ingest them. Poison Control received over 700 calls nationally involving cigarette butt ingestion over the last three years; nearly 90% of those incidents occurred in children less than 2 years old. Eating just one cigarette butt can be toxic to a child under 6 years old, according to Poison Control

These chemicals can seep into the ground, and contaminate the soil and groundwater. Heavy metals such as cadmium are hazardous and cannot be destroyed, but are absorbed readily by plants such as root and leafy vegetables.

“It’s a vicious circle, what we are doing to our environment every day,” said Ana Navas-Acien, an environmental health sciences professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “We are eating, breathing in and drinking toxic products, resulting in premature death and disease.”

The chemicals from cigarette butts can also accumulate in the bodies of animals, which means they can make their way through the entire food chain.

“Chemicals get leached out into an aquatic environment,” Novotny said. “Animals at the lower end of the food chain such as microorganisms are absorbed through filtration by a clam or an oyster. Then birds eat this, and it becomes food for some other animal, and maybe even us.”

Birds have been known to incorporate discarded filters in their nests. Novotny said this has two outcomes. One, the bird has fewer parasites or fleas because nicotine is a natural pesticide. Unfortunately, he said, the butts also cause DNA damage.

(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)



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