Cigarette waste: Assessment of hazard to the environment and health in Riyadh city

2020-05-01

Cigarette waste/litter is considered a major environmental contamination problem worldwide as trillions of cigarettes are smoked worldwide and a large part of that, cigarette waste, is disposed of in the open areas including roads, parks, and streets, etc. cigarette litter is the most commonly found litter. It is mainly cigarette filter, made of cellulose acetate, and unburnt part of the tobacco filler. Filters from smoked cigarettes contain a significant amount of tar trapped in it. The tar contains thousands of chemicals and heavy metals. Both of these organic and inorganic constituents have been reported to be toxic to humans and cause a variety of diseases including inflammatory lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers. Cigarette litter is a significant environmental concern as the chemicals and heavy metals can leach into the soil or water sources and pose threat to animals and plants, from there they can enter into the food chain as well. Several reports indicate toxicities to aquatic and terrestrial animals as they consumed cigarette litter. In the present investigation, cigarette litter was collected from 28 randomly selected locations in the Riyadh city to assess the risk to the environment. Cigarette litter, in the form of cigarette butts, was collected, counted, weighed and analyzed for heavy metal content. Data indicate the presence of a significant amount of cigarette litter on roadsides, streets, and parks in the Riyadh city. However, the investigation had its limitations as it did not focus on the absolute amount of cigarette litter vs the time. It also did not consider the amount of cigarette litter percent in the total waste discarded. The investigation presents the results of the screening of the cigarette litter present on the Riyadh city roads, streets, and parks. The findings raise concerns regarding the hazards the cigarette litter poses to the environment and human health. The investigation sheds the light on this unexplored aspect of smoking-associated issues in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Authors: Qamar W, Abdelgalil AA, Aljarboa S, Alhuzani M, Altamimi MA
; Full Source: Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences. 2020 May;27(5):1380-1383. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2019.12.002. Epub 2019 Dec 16.