Cigarette butts leak deadly toxins into environment, study finds


NEW DELHI: Cigarette filters leak thousands of toxins and plastic fibers into the environment that are toxic to aquatic larvae, according to a study that calls for these filters to be completely banned.

A research team at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that microfibers and the chemicals that leak out of the filters in cigarette butts are toxic to aquatic larvae.

“The filter is full of thousands of toxic chemicals and microplastic fibers, so it’s not just any piece of plastic that’s being discarded into the environment. It’s hazardous waste,” said Bethanie Carney Almroth, Professor of Ecotoxicology at the University of Gothenburg.

The study, published in the journal Microplastics and Nanoplastics, tested the effects of the toxins that are found in the filter after smoking, as well as the substances that are in the filter from the start, on aquatic mosquito larvae.

It found that the toxins lead to a 20 per cent higher mortality rate among mosquito larvae.

Previous research has shown that the toxins in the filters also have adverse effects on many other aquatic organisms.

For example, fish can die if they are exposed to concentrations corresponding to the toxins exuded by barely two cigarette butts in one liter of water for four days.

“Cigarette filters are also a major source of the microplastics that find their way into our environment — something we know has a major negative impact on biological life. The EU has already classified cigarette filters as hazardous waste,” said Almroth.

The researchers also observed in the study how smokers in Gothenburg behave when it’s time to put out their cigarettes.

It turns out that many people throw their cigarette butts on the ground even if there are ashtrays nearby.

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