- Posted August 24, 2011 by
San Diego, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Boot camp: Find your sources
Perfectly Good Science Also Agrees: BUTTS OFF THE BEACH!
Luckily for me, the subject that I have focused on for Boot camp-Cigarette Butts polluting our beaches and bays- is one that I have an abundance of sources to chose from.
This past summer, Surfrider San Diego had a big chapter meeting and the featured speaker was Dr. Tom Novotny, a Professor at the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University. Dr. Novotny is a leading authority on pollution in the marine environment and also a neighbor of mine in Point Loma.
His talk that evening at the Chapter Meeting was specifically related to cigarette butts toxicity and their chemical components that leach into the oceans and bays-contaminating marine and freshwater fish.
A research paper mentioned at the meeting by SDSU grad student Elli Slaughter gave ample scientific evidence regarding the usage of the Comprehensive Environmental Toxicity Information System to identify and quantify the mortality rate of cigarette butt leachate to fish.
Since many chemical products are used in the course of growing tobacco and manufacturing cigarettes, chemical residues will be present in the final product.
As documented by the website www.cigwaste.org, "used cigarette butts continue to be the most common form of litter worldwide" and they have been known to leach out various chemical components into the waterways. Many environmentalists are of the mind that used cigarette butts be defined as hazardous waste material. But in order to do that, a strict scientific methodology must be used to quantify what discarded cigarette butt's specific aquatic toxicity is. Therefore, grad student Slaughter's research paper is an informative resource in the search for answers about why it is of utmost importance that we keep used cigarette butts off the beaches and out of the waterways.
To make a long study short, the research group conducted toxicity indentification evaluations following U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acute protocols.
Tests on both topsmelt and fathead minnows were performed utilizing three different cigarette leachates: 1) from smoked, filtered cigarette butts with some tobacco, 2) from smoked, filtered cigarette butts with all tobacco removed, 3) from unsmoked cigarette filters without tobacco.
The conclusion of these various tests undoubtedly found scientific proof that smoked, filtered cigarette butts-with or without tobacco adherance and simply unsmoked filtered cigarettes with no tobacco adherance were ALL found to be acutely toxic to representative marine and freshwater fish alike.
These species of fish who were tested were submerged in water diluted with the specific testing agent-four replicates for every concentration. Survival was the endpoint evaluated and data was analyzed to identify the median lethal effect concentration (LC50)-which was the concentration of cigarette butt leachate resulting in 50% mortality.
The toxicity tests were performed three times each and yielded differing results. One surprising aspect of the study found that leachate from the unsmoked filtered cigarettes with no tobacco was found to be acutely toxic to both of the test fish species, thus confiming that it is the actual cigarette butt, itself, and not necessarily the tobacco or burned cigarette ingredients that can contribute die off in aquatic species.
However, the conclusions of the study also reveal that remnant tobacco did confer a degree of toxicity above that of the smoked filter alone. A smoked, filtered cigarette with a remnant of tobacco adherance was found to increase of the overall toxicity of the cigarette butt and indicated as the most lethal combination for LC50 fish survival rates.
This San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health study is additionally relevant to the determination of research data as it is the VERY FIRST in the literature to show a parallel between leachate from cigarette butts and fish toxicity and mortality rates in labratory-controlled EPA-protocol testing.