Hot or not, cigarette butts release toxins

A recent study looks at how discarded cigarette buts can expose you to toxins

May 14, 2020
A closeup of an ashray packed with orange cigarette butts.
[credit: Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0 DE unmodified]

We all know smoking is bad for your health. So is second-hand smoke. It turns out, even a leftover cigarette butt could be bad for you as well. Most butts are made with plastic and are not biodegradable. Scientists know nicotine and other toxins leach out of these ubiquitous plastic waste products, but recent research shows they could expose us to hazardous chemicals through an unexpected path — the air.

Each year, Americans buy more than 250 billion cigarettes, according to the Center for Disease Control. Many are tossed on the ground, making butts the most common type of litter on U.S. roads. As burnt cigarette butts pile up by the millions on beaches and streets all over the world, this new research could have big implications for those who live with smokers or deal with cigarette waste.

How did researchers figure this out and what does it mean for our health? Find out in an audio story narrated by Leto Sapunar. Music by Chad Crouch.


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