SDSU public health researcher and CBAG Member Richard Gersberg evaluated the effects left-over cigarette butts have on marine life and found that the chemicals from just one filtered cigarette butt had the ability to kill half the fish living in a 1-liter container of water. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose-acetate, which is not biodegradable.
Standardized test fish (top smelt in salt water, flat-head minnows in fresh water) were used in this study, performed according to standards recommended by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and was approved by the SDSU Institutional Review Board.
Gersberg’s study used three types of cigarette butts: smoked filtered cigarettes without tobacco; smoked filtered cigarettes with tobacco and clean un-smoked filtered cigarettes. In all cases, about half of the fish were killed with a very low concentration of cigarette butts. The most important finding in this research is that it seems to be the filter, or rather whats in the left-over filter that is most dangerous to our water,Gersberg said. The results of this study are now being prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
In response to these findings, CBAG held a press conference on May 1, 2009, in the Aztec Center to recommend that cigarette butts be considered and regulated as toxic wastes.
Each year, billions of cigarette butts end up on our beaches, and in our oceans, lakes and rivers,said Tom Novotny, chair of CBAG and professor of public health at SDSU. Based on this new research, we believe that cigarettes should be considered toxic waste and new requirements need to be established for how they are disposed.