Thanks to the warnings on TV and on cigarette boxes with pictures of terrible diseases, we are already aware of the dangers of smoking. This bad habit is very common and in most cases leads to cancer, respiratory problems and problems with the cardiovascular system. But did you know that cigarettes not only damage human health, but also the environment? For example, scientists from the English city of Cambridge found in 2019 that cigarette butts thrown to the ground slow down plant growth considerably. Now it has become known that cigarettes release pollutants into the air even after they have gone out. But what substances are we talking about and what are they harmful?
The environmental hazards of cigarettes have been described in the journal Science of the Total Environment. If you believe the published article, cigarettes emit eight chemicals, four of which are considered dangerous to humans and nature. According to employees of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the release of nicotine and triacetin into the air only stops five days after the cigarette is extinguished.
The substance triacetin is considered harmless and is sometimes even used as a food supplement as a solvent for flavors and moisturizers. In cigarettes, it plays the role of a plasticizer that gives the filters elasticity.
How do cigarettes harm nature?
Researchers at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) have started measuring the harmful emissions of an extinguished cigarette into the air. According to environmental engineer Dustin Poppendieck (Dustin Poppendieck), the ability of cigarettes to release dangerous compounds can be even more disadvantageous when smoking indoors. For example, if cigarette butts remain in the ashtray, many people can literally overfill their home with harmful substances.
The scientists conducted a laboratory experiment to find out how many chemical compounds occur in closed rooms from smoked cigarettes. It consisted of putting 2100 smoked cigarettes in a stainless steel box and estimating the pollutant concentration five days later. Of course, they did not start smoking cigarettes themselves, but passed them on to a special robot that can make six puffs and imitate the smoking of a real person.
Incidentally, there is another robot smoker in the world who is helping scientists to study lung diseases.
In the end, the authors of the scientific work came to the conclusion that extinguished cigarettes release so many pollutants into the air that the damage they cause is comparable to normal secondhand smoke. It is noteworthy that at high temperatures the emission of pollutants is much more intense, so it is obviously a very bad decision to leave full ashtrays in a hot room.
You may think that you protect children's health if you don't smoke in the car. However, if an ashtray with extinguished cigarettes is in the cabin, the researchers believe that they still have harmful effects on others.
Unfortunately, there is no precise information on pollutants and their concentration. In general, scientists should conduct a more thorough study that includes cigarettes of different brands, the composition of which can vary widely. On the other hand, the results of scientific work spoke of another dangerous series of cigarette butts, of which up to five trillion pieces accumulate on the surface of the planet in a year.