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Cigarette Butts: The Most Littered Item in the World

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Cigarette Butts: The Most Littered Item in the World
Cigarette butt litter. Tavallai / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Dipika Kadaba

We've known for more than 50 years that smoking cigarettes comes with health hazards, but it turns out those discarded butts are harmful for the environment, too. Filtered cigarette butts, although small, contain dozens of chemicals, including arsenic and benzene. These toxins can leach into the ground or water, creating a potentially deadly situation for nearby birds, fish and other wildlife.


These tiny bits of trash are a very big problem. Each year trillions of cigarette butts are tossed out around the world. Beach cleanups continually find that cigarette butts are the most-littered item — even more than plastic bags.

Municipalities have started to take steps to curb plastic pollution, enacting bans on plastic straws, bags and other single-use items. Will similar efforts be undertaken to snuff out cigarette butt litter?

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.

Plastic pollution lines a Singapore beach. Vaidehi Shah/ CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

Our plastic pollution problem has reached new heights and new depths.

Scientists have found bits of plastic on the seafloor, thousands of feet below the ocean's surface. Plastic debris has also washed ashore on remote islands; traveled to the top of pristine mountains; and been found inside the bodies of whales, turtles, seabirds and people, too.

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A large loggerhead with other injuries washed ashore during the latest cold-stunning event and was treated at New England Aquarium. New England Aquarium

Hundreds of endangered sea turtles were stranded on beaches after suffering "cold stunning" in the waters off Cape Cod, Mass. Local rescuers and wildlife rehabilitators stabilized the turtles at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) and National Marine Life Center and began treatment. Many of the sea turtles were transported by land or air to partner facilities around the Eastern Seaboard for longer-term care to make room for more incoming, cold-stunned animals.

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