Cigarette Filter Pollution Drastically Impacts the Environment with Leaching Chemicals

First Posted: May 06, 2014 01:32 PM EDT

Want to help save the environment? Then you may want to help ban cigarette filters. Researchers have found that measures need to be taken in order to curb the large-scale littering of cigarette butts, packaging and matches.

Cigarette butts and other tobacco waste products are the most common items that are picked up during urban and beach clean-ups worldwide. In fact, an estimated 4.5 trillion of the annual 6 trillion cigarettes sold worldwide do not end up in a trash can or in an ashtray.

These waste products aren't just litter in the environment, though. Tobacco products contain toxins, nicotine, pesticides and carcinogens. This means that these chemicals can leach into the environment; not only that, but plastic cigarette filters are practically non-biodegradable and chemicals from filters can drip into the surrounding environment for up to ten years. This can drastically impact species that include fish and other animals.

"Tobacco waste products are ubiquitous, environmentally hazardous and a significant community nuisance," said Thomas Novotny, one of the researchers, in a news release. "With two-thirds of all smoked cigarettes, numbering in the trillions globally, being discarded into the environment each year, it is critical to consider the potential toxicity and remediation of these waste products."

The researchers urge that steps be taken in order to curb the pollution of these waste products. New environmental interventions should be taken, and there should be partnerships between tobacco control and environmental groups.

The findings are published in the journal Current Environmental Health Reports.

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