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Cigarette butts contaminate our water and create human health hazards

In a recent publication in Chemical Research in Toxicology, TRDRP grantee, Eunha Hoh’s team reported that when combustible cigarette butts are suspended in freshwater and saltwater they leach out chemicals that harm humans.

Cigarette butts make up more than one third of all collected litter.  Past studies have shown that when cigarette butts are suspended in water, chemicals can leach out harming aquatic species.  In this study, Eunha Hoh and colleagues demonstrated that the chemicals from cigarette butts can also harm humans.  Using assays to detect an impact on several biological pathways, the researchers detected a strong effect of cigarette butt leachate on these processes.  This suggests that cigarette butt litter suspended in both fresh and salt water can impair the body’s hormonal regulation, tumor suppression, and embryonic development.

Going further, the team also isolated eleven compounds in cigarette butt leachate responsible for these biological effects. 

The editors of Chemical Research in Toxicity deemed the research important enough to select the publication for America Chemical Society Editor’s Choice.  This means that the paper was automatically granted Open Access so that it could be more easily accessed by a broader audience.  Publications selected for ACS Editor’s Choice “consist of research that exemplifies the Society's commitment to improving people's lives through the transforming power of chemistry.”

The research described in this publication supports the Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee (TEROC) policy recommendation to “Protect People and the Environment.” 

picture of Dr. Hoh and Dr. Dodder in the lab