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What causes a cigarette butt that is thrown on the beach

  • About five trillion butts end up in the marine environment annually, pouring metal contaminants that can enter the food chain
What causes a cigarette butt that is thrown on the beach

Cigarettes (José María Alguersuari)

In Spain some 89 billion cigarettes smoked per day, representing 32,455 million filters discarded annually, according to a report by the National Committee for Smoking Prevention (NPTC). And we wonder … How many of these end up on the floor? The truth is that no figures verify it but if we know that cigarette butts are left in the soil can be washed away by rain into the rivers, reaching the coast. In addition we must not forget the amount of cigarette butts in the sea just for the simple fact that have been lying on the beach.

Cigarette butts are often concentrated on the floor at the entrances of office buildings

Cigarette butts are often concentrated on the floor at the entrances of office buildings (Luis Tato)

Cigarette butts are the most common form of garbage found in the marine environment, with an estimated 5 billion thrown into the environment around the world every year . I these may emit arsenic or nickel in water.

The metals on an investigation of the Center for Research in Marine Biotechnology Persian Gulf University of Medical Sciences, Bushehr (Iran), and published in the journal Tobacco Control, included cadmium (Cd), iron (Fe), arsenic (As ) nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn) and manganese (Mn), all cigarette butts discarded.

To do the study, the authors monitored the levels of metals in cigarette butts in nine different locations along the northern part of the Persian Gulf in the coastal areas of Bushehr seaport during the summer of 2015.

According to researchers, the metal content of glass water pipe may vary by cultivation process or may also be added during manufacture of the cigarette or by applying polishing agents in the wrapper paper.

The cigarette filters, which are made of cellulose acetate, other plastics can act as a conduit for transporting providing metals in marine environments, the authors suggest. They also note that the response of plant and animal life to the metal content is very variable.

In nature, these minerals are essential for life. However, an artificial increase in their usual amounts could be harmful for oceanic species. In some cases, researchers believe that the result would be an increase in their levels of “tolerance to metals” but also warn that, in many other organisms, the high concentration of heavy metals in water can be terribly harmful.

Given the estimated scattered cigarette butts per year (4.95 billion) amount, release of metals from cigarette butts scattered on the marine environment can increase the potential for acute injury with respect to local species and enter in the food chain.

Prohibit smoking on the beach

Four years ago the town of Sant Feliu de Guixols (Girona) banned smoking in some areas of its beaches. That pilot curdled and since then has increased the coastal area without smoke.

This year the initiative has been put into practice at regional level in Galicia. Galician beaches Smokeless network already has 22 sandbanks of 17 municipalities of Pontevedra, Lugo and Corunna, the three coastal provinces. They are famous beaches listed in tourist brochures as Area Grande in La Guardia, Perbes Miño or Rabadorira in Ribadeo and other lesser known but have great influx as Lapamán in Bueu.

The initiative does not have a punitive character, so that no special surveillance or smokers will be sanctioned. The initiative has an informative character to promote healthy lifestyles, and respect for the environment.