Cigarette Butts on Our Beaches Release Harmful Chemicals

Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center researchers find cigarette butts on the beach are not just unsightly litter. Chemicals from the butts get into the water, and these chemicals are harmful to human health. 

By Padma Nagappan, Science/Research Writer
July 2019

It’s not just secondhand smoke or thirdhand smoke, but also cigarette butts that litter our streets and beaches and get swept into storm water drains that cause significant harm. 
Recent research spearheaded by Dr. Eunha Hoh with SDSU’s School of Public Health found that leachate from cigarette butts contaminants fresh water bodies, oceans and beaches, and it can harm human health. Chemicals in the leachate can trigger estrogen hormone receptors and aryl hydrocarbon receptors (proteins that regulate gene expression) in our bodies. Triggering these receptors causes endocrine disruption, which is one of the pathways that could lead to cancer. 
That cigarette butts create considerable amounts of litter is well-known, but now for the first time, environmental health scientist Hoh and her co-authors including Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center researchers Dr. Nate Dodder of San Diego State University and Dr. Susyann Schick of University of California San Francisco studied the direct effects of the toxicology on health. What they found is disturbing. Their findings show that outdoor smoking also causes harm and there needs to be regulations on littering, in addition to indoor smoking bans. The paper was published in the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Research in Toxicology journal on July 29, 2019.

The study was also selected to be featured as one of the ACS Editor’s Choice papers that are available open-access,  because “the subject of study is highly important and timely, and the findings are very important to the field of chemical toxicology.” 

Strategic Communications and Public Affairs
Office of the President
San Diego State University
Note: Content was edited for style and length. 

Click here to read the original research article.

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