Friday, February 19, 2016

Cigarette Butt Pollution - Another Good Reason to Quit Smoking

Considering smoking as an air pollution problem for environmental health


Yale EDU  Jan 14, 2014 Article by Rachel Lipstein, Yale College '15 (This is an excerpt)


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Anthony Sanchelli

Environmental tobacco smoke contains cancer-causing compounds that the U.S. government regulates as hazardous air pollutants. Further, environmental tobacco smoke has a very high content of fine particulate matter or PM2.5, the EPI indicator for air pollution. A cigarette in the mouth of a passerby may represent more than just an occasion to hold one’s breath. It may be a pollutant potent enough to rival a passing car. A 2004 study conducted by researchers at Italy’s National Cancer Institute compared the output of three lit cigarettes and a diesel engine.1 After 30 minutes of continuous exposure in a controlled garage, the scientists found that the cigarettes released ten times the particulate matter of the engine.
Environmental tobacco smoke poses a significant health risk after long-term exposure in enclosed spaces, though it still ranks low on gross causes of air pollution, a list topped by transportation, industrial and agricultural emissions, power generation and residential heating and cooking. Yet while smoking is not a leading human cause of air pollution, air pollution has now been deemed a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, announced this October that air pollution causes lung cancer and increases the risk for bladder cancer. As air pollution, like tobacco smoke, is found to be carcinogenic, the line between human and environmental health blurs. Public health strategists, air quality experts, and policymakers alike have every incentive to make clean air a priority.
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Cigarette smoke produces 10 times more air pollution than diesel car exhaust

Medical News Today Wednesday 25 August 2004
The air pollution emitted by cigarettes is 10 times greater than diesel car exhaust, suggests a controlled experiment, reported in Tobacco Control.

Environmental tobacco smoke produces fine particulate matter, which is the most dangerous element of air pollution for health. Levels indoors can far exceed those outdoors, because new engine models and lead free fuels have cut the levels of particulate matter emissions from car exhausts, say the authors.

The controlled experiment was carried out in a private garage in a small mountain town in northern Italy. The town enjoys very low levels of particulate matter air pollution

A turbo diesel 2 litre engine was started and left idling for 30 minutes in the garage, with the doors closed, after which the doors were left open for four hours. The car was fuelled with low sulphur fuel.

Three filter cigarettes were then lit up sequentially, and left smouldering for a further 30 minutes. The nicotine and tar content of each cigarette was 1 mg and 11.2 mg, respectively.

A portable analyser took readings every two minutes during the experiments.

Combined particulate levels in the first hour after the engine had been started measured 88 ug/m3. Those recorded in the first hour after the cigarettes had been lit measured 830 ug/m3: 10 times greater.

The diesel engine exhaust doubled the particulate matter levels found outdoors at its peak; the environmental tobacco smoke particulate matter reached levels 15 times those measured outdoors.

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How many discarded cigarette butts are there?


WORLD CIGARETTE PRODUCTION
1950
1,686 billion
1960
2,150 billion
1970
3,112 billion
1980
4,388 billion
1990
5,419 billion
1991
5,351 billion
1992
5,363 billion
1993
5,300 billion
1994
5,478 billion
1995
5,599 billion
1996
5,680 billion
1997
5,633 billion
1998
5,581 billion
1999
5,554 billion
2000
5,609 billion
2001
5,643 billion
2002
5,602 billion
2003
5,662 billion
2004
5,530 billion (prelim.)
Sources for above table: U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Bureau of Census as quoted in "Vital Signs 2005" published by WorldWatch Institute.

CIGARETTES CONSUMED IN THE UNITED STATES The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that the following number of cigarettes were consumed in the U.S.:

1993 - 485,000,000,000
1994 - 486,000,000,000
1995 - 487,000,000,000
1996 - 487,000,000,000
1997 - 480,000,000,000
1998 - 465,000,000,000
1999 - 435,000,000,000
2000 - 430,000,000,000
2001 - 425,000,000,000
2002 - 415,000,000,000
2003 - 400,000,000,000
2004 - 388,000,000,000
2005 - 376,000,000,000
2006 - 372,000,000,000
2007 - 360,000,000,000 (Estimate by USDA)


Source: Tobacco Outlook Report, Economic Research Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
The USDA estimates that consumption in the U.S. is decreasing due to the cumulative effects of higher prices, higher State taxes, restrictions on smoking, and increased awareness of links between smoking and disease. See Links for more details. For more data on production, export, and consumption of tobacco products, see http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/tobacco/tables.htm

LARGEST PRODUCERS OF CIGARETTES
 1. China
1.79 Trillion cigarettes produced in 2004, mostly (99%) consumed in China
2. United States
499 billion cigarettes produced in 2004, about 24 percent exported
3. Russia
380 billion cigarettes produced in 2004
4. Japan
216 billion cigarettes produced in 2004
Note: The numbers on this web page reflect the number of cigarettes consumed or produced. This does not mean that the discarded cigarette butts were all littered. No one knows the exact number of cigarette butts which are littered each year. Clean Virginia Waterways encourages you to use these facts and numbers correctly.




The World Health Organization estimates that 1,300,000,000 (1.3 billion) people smoke in the world - that is one third of all people on earth over the age of 15. More than 80 percent of these people live in countries with low or middle income levels.


WEIGHT AND VOLUME OF CIGARETTE BUTTS
The 360 billion cigarettes smoked in the United States in 2007 translates to a total of 135,000,000 pounds of discarded butts in one year in the United States alone. The filters from 5.6 trillion cigarettes (approximate world production) would weigh more than 2.1 billion pounds (see table below). This figure does not include the weight of the tobacco still attached to the filter, or the packaging, matches, disposable lighters, and other "collateral" waste that is generated by smoking.

The filters on one pack of 20 cigarettes weigh 0.12 ounces (with no tobacco attached) and displaces a volume of 10 mL. With annual worldwide production of cigarettes at 5.6 trillion, the potential weight and volume of cigarette butts becomes enormous (Table below).

number of filters
ounces/pounds
milliliters/liters
20 (one pack)
.12 oz
10 ml
10,000 (one year's consumption for one smoker)
3.75 lbs
5 liters
1,000,000
375 lbs
500 liters
100,000,000
37,500 lbs
50,000 liters
10,000,000,000
3,750,000 lbs
5,000,000 liters
360,000,000,000 (Estimated number of cigarettes smoked in the US in 2007. Note: not all were littered!!)
135,000,000 lbs
180,000,000 liters
1,000,000,000,000
375,000,000 lbs
500,000,000 liters
5,608,000,000,000
(1998 world cigarette production)
2,103,000,000 lbs
2,804,000,000 liters



* The percentage of cigarettes with filters varies, depending on the country.

Similarly, cigarette butts take up a large volume of space. If one person smokes a pack-and-a half a day, he will consume more than 10,000 cigarettes in a year. This number of cigarette butts (filters only-not including remnant tobacco) will fill a volume of five liters. Worldwide annual consumption of cigarettes creates enough cigarette butt waste to fill more than 2,800,000,000 liters (2,800,000 m3).

Cigarette butt data from The Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup

So how many cigarette butts are finding their way into streams, rivers and coastal environments? The International Coastal Cleanup, organized annually by The Ocean Conservancy (formerly the Center for Marine Conservation) involves more than 300,000 volunteers picking up debris from beaches, rivers and streams around the world. Volunteers complete Marine Debris Data Cards indicating the quantity and type of litter they pick up. Every year during the International Coastal Cleanup, cigarette butts top the list as the most abundant item collected worldwide. Cigarette butt litter is also one of the top sources of litter in Virginia. 


Cigarette butts are the most common debris item collected during the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup numbering:

 
1998 - 1,616,841
1999 - 1,052,373
2000 - 1,369,726
2001 - 1,527,837 (22.31% of all the debris collected during the ICC)
2002 - 1,640,614 (cigarettes and other smoking-related products accounted for 30 percent of the debris)
2003 - 1,426,613 (cigarette filters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging accounted for 38% of U.S. debris, and 34% of worldwide debris)
2004 - 1,268,177 (cigarette filters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging accounted for 29.6% of U.S. debris, and 21.2% of worldwide debris)
2005 - 1,638,066
(cigarette filters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging accounted for 30.4% of worldwide debris)
2006 - 1,892,060 (cig
arette filters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging accounted for 33.4% of worldwide debris)
2007 - 1,971,551 (cigarette filters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging accounted for 38% of worldwide debris) 


Cigarette butts have topped the list in all the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanups since they were added to the Data Cards as a separate item in 1990. The number of cigarette butts collected during the cleanup is a small fraction of what is really out in the environment. The Ocean Conservancy has fact sheets about the International Coastal Cleanup available online. 

source
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Emergence of the issue

Cigarette butts accumulate in the environment due to the popularity of plastic cigarette filters and the habit some smokers have to "toss their butt" rather than use ashtrays. Prior to 1954, most cigarettes were non-filtered. In the mid-1950s, sales of filtered cigarettes increased dramatically as the cause-effect relationship between smoking and cancer was reported extensively in the press. Before these reports, in 1950, sales of filtered cigarettes in the US were 1.5% of all cigarette sales. Now, more than 97% of cigarettes sold in the U .S. have filters.
The recent bans on indoor smoking have also appeared to cause a shift in cigarette butt deposition. Circumstantial evidence indicates that more cigarette butts are accumulating outside of buildings due to the popularity of indoor smoking bans. In Australia, cigarette butts account for 50% of all litter, a trend that the executive director of Keep Australia Clean blames partly on indoor no-smoking policies.

How many discarded cigarette butts are there? 


Trillions. Global tobacco consumption has more than doubled in the last 30 years, and world cigarette production reached a record high in 1997 according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The USDA estimated that in 1998, 470 billion cigarettes were consumed in the US; world cigarette production was 5.608 trillion. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.1 billion people in the world smoke—that is one third of all people on earth over the age of 15.

The 470 billion cigarettes smoked in the United States in 1998 translates to a total of 176,250,000 pounds of discarded butts in one year in the United States alone. The filters from 5.608 trillion cigarettes (approximate world production) would weigh more than 2.1 billion pounds (Table 1). This figure does not include the weight of the tobacco still attached to the filter, or the packaging, matches, disposable lighters, and other "collateral" waste that is generated by smoking.

The filters on one pack of 20 cigarettes weigh 0.12 ounces (with no tobacco attached) and displaces a volume of 10 ml. With annual worldwide production of cigarettes at 5.608 trillion, the potential weight and volume of cigarette butts becomes enormous (Table 1).
Similarly, cigarette butts take up a large volume of space. If one person smokes a pack and a half a day, he will consume more than 10,000 cigarettes in a year. This number of cigarette butts (filters only—not including remnant tobacco) will fill a volume of five liters. Worldwide annual consumption of cigarettes creates enough cigarette butt waste to fill more than 2,800,000,000 liters (2,800,000 m3).

number of filters
ounces/pounds
milliliters/liters
20(one pack)
.12 oz
10 ml
10,000(one year's consumption for one smoker)
3.75 lbs
5 liters
1,000,000
375 lbs
500 liters
100,000,000
37,500 lbs
50,000 liters
10,000,000,000
3,750,000 lbs
5,000,000 liters
465,000,000,000(Number of cigarettes smoked in the US in 1998)
174,375,000 lbs
232,500,000 liters
1,000,000,000,000
375,000,000 lbs
500,000,000 liters
5,608,000,000,000
(1998 world cigarette production)
2,103,000,000 lbs
2,804,000,000 liters



Table 1—Weight and Volume of Discarded Cigarette Filters. The percentage of cigarettes with filters varies, depending on the country.

Number of filters


 
There is one measure as to how many cigarette butts are finding their way into streams, rivers, and coastal environments. The International Coastal Cleanup Day, organized annually by the Center for Marine Conservation, involves more than 500,000 volunteers picking up debris from beaches, rivers, and streams around the world. [Note: in July 2001, the Center for Marine Conservation changed its name to The Ocean Conservancy.] Volunteers complete Marine Debris Data Cards indicating the quantity and type of litter they pick up. Cigarette butts were the most common debris item collected during the international cleanup, numbering 1,616,841 in 1998.


Cigarette butts have topped the list in all CMC International Coastal Cleanups since they were added to the Data Cards as a separate item in 1990.

Because of the vast inflow of cigarette butts into the environment, experiments were conducted to determine if cigarette butts as litter present an environmental problem beyond aesthetics and have a measurable toxic effect when they enter the aquatic environment.
A series of bioassays (tests which use the response of a living organism to determine the effective level of a chemical in the environment) were conducted. One of the organisms most studied in aquatic bioassays is the planktonic animal Daphnia magna, often called a water flea. Static acute toxicity tests using D. magna have been widely used for decades to estimate the acute toxicity of chemicals to aquatic invertebrates. In aquatic ecosystems, water fleas occupy a critical position as they transfer energy and organic matter from primary producers (algae) to higher consumers such as fishes. Water fleas are small transparent crustaceans, have one central black compound eye, and swim in jerky motions. They feed by rhythmically beating their legs, collecting algae or bacteria on the filter-like bristles on their thoracic legs, and passing the food toward their mouths.



Conclusions


Cigarette butts are the most common type of litter on earth. Collected, they weigh in the millions of pounds. The toxic chemicals absorbed by cigarettes' cellulose acetate filters and found in butts' remnant tobacco, are quickly leached from the butts by water.


The evidence indicates that the toxic chemicals leached from discarded cigarette butts present a biohazard to the water flea at concentrations of more than 0.125 butts per liter, or about one butt per two gallons of water. The leachate from the remnant tobacco portion of a cigarette butt is deadlier at smaller concentrations than are the chemicals that leach out of the filter portion of a butt.

Implications of research

The experiments summarized in this article are just the preliminary steps to fully understanding the impact cigarette litter has on our aquatic environment.
With cigarette butts identified as a biohazard, governmental agencies, environmental organizations, and anti-litter groups could educate smokers that littering cigarette butts causes harm to the environment.
Cigarette butts in the environment is a litter issue—not a smoking issue. Just as the manufacturers of sodas have no control over the consumer's disposal of empty cans or bottles, cigarette manufacturers cannot control a smoker's behavior when it comes to the disposal of cigarette butts. Just as beverage manufacturers contribute to litter prevention campaigns, and have invested in public education on litter issues, so too should the tobacco industry. Thus far, cigarette manufacturers have made small efforts at litter prevention education. They need to take an active and responsible role in educating smokers about this issue and devote resources to the cleanup of cigarette litter. Strategies can include anti-litter messages on all packaging and advertisements, distribution of small, free portable ashtrays, and placement and maintenance of outdoor ashtrays in areas where smokers gather. Maybe cigarette packages can be redesigned to accommodate discarded butts.

In some states, consumers pay a small "anti-litter tax" every time they purchase a canned or bottled beverage. These funds support anti-litter efforts. A similar tax on cigarette purchases would go a long way toward funding campaigns aimed at eliminating the littering of butts. Picking up littered cigarette butts costs schools, businesses, and park agencies money. By taxing smokers for anti-litter educational efforts, some of the costs of cleaning up cigarette butts will shift onto smokers.

Smokers who now treat outdoor spaces as public ashtrays may reconsider their behavior when they learn that cigarette butts are made of plastic, not of cotton and paper; and worse, that cigarette butts contain chemicals that can kill some of the animals that occupy critical positions in aquatic communities. It is important that smokers' littering behavior be modified to decrease this source of pollution. 

About the Author:
Kathleen Register is the founder and executive director of Clean Virginia Waterways, and coordinates the International Coastal Cleanup in Virginia. She is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Natural Sciences at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. Ms. Register has a master's degree from George Mason University in Environmental Resources and Policy, and is co-author of the U.S. EPA's Estuary Monitorin: A Methods Manual and Virginia's Water Resources: A Tool for Teachers. To contact the author, please send an e-mail to cleanva@longwood.edu or call 434-395-2602.


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