Pollution is increasing as the world's population expands. Our lack of knowledge, awareness and use of unnecessary plastic is contaminating the soil, water and air. At present, the use of plastic in the manufacture of practically all products is expanding, one of which is the cigarette filter! A research published in the Lancet indicated that about 1 billion people globally smoke cigarettes. More than 4.5 trillion filters are released into the environment each year. According to the World Health Organization, Bangladesh ranks 8th (39.10 percent) in the list of top ten countries in the highest cigarette smoking rate. The rate of tobacco use is steadily increasing. According to the WHO, approximately 8 million people worldwide are expected to die by 2030, the most of them in low-middle income nations. From research, these discarded filters are the most common source of global waste, despite the severe damage to the global environment as well as human health. Every year 49 billion cigarettes are consumed in Bangladesh. One of the major sources of environmental pollution is cigarette filters. Each component of cigarettes is hazardous to human health and the environment, including the filter. This may appear to be a safety net for smokers at first appearance, but it is also a significant contributor to environmental pollution.

Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate (a type of plastic), with the remainder being made of papers and rayon. A generic term for thermoplastic polymers made from cellulose's acetic acid ester. Cotton Linters and/or refined Wood pulp are chemically modified using Sulfuric acid, then acetylated with Acetic acid and Acetic anhydride to produce cellulose acetate. Cellulose acetate is found in screwdriver handles, ink pen reservoirs, and x-ray films, and is used as a film foundation in photography, as well as a component in some adhesives and as a frame material for spectacles. It is also used as a synthetic fiber and in the fabrication of cigarette filters. The cellulose acetate tow fibers are thinner than sewing thread, white, and densely packed to form a filter; they may look like to be cotton. Cellulose acetate, a type of plastic, when they are discarded into the environment, they release not just plastic, but also nicotine, heavy metals, and a variety of other substances. Various chemical compounds are utilized in the process of producing tobacco and manufacturing cigarettes, and their remnants may be found in used cigarettes filter. Additionally, the environment may be exposed to over 4000 chemicals via cigarette particulate matter (tar) and mainstream smoke. Which include carbon monoxide, benzene, cyanide, nitrogen oxides, pyridines, ammonia, phenol, argon, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and acetone, over 50 of which are known to be carcinogenic and harmful to humans, animals, and plant growth.

Cigarette filter is a major source of environmental contamination on a massive level, as trillions of cigarettes are smoked each year and a significant portion of that, cigarette waste, is discarded in open areas such as roads, parks, and streets. Cigarette filters contain a substantial amount of tar. Thousands of compounds and heavy metals are found in tar. Both of these organic and inorganic ingredients have been shown to be toxic to humans and to be associated with a number of diseases, including inflammatory lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Cigarette litter is a serious environmental concern because the toxins and heavy metals in it can leech into the soil or water sources, causing a threat to animals and plants, and then into the food chain. As per the study, the used filter inhibits the plant's growth. Researchers have found 128 cigarette filters per square kilometre in the area surrounding Cambridge. As a result, these filtered cigarette filters have developed into one of the most detrimental plastic pollutants for plants. Not only used cigarette filters are hazardous to the environment; studies have shown that unused cigarette filters are just as toxic. These cigarette filters significantly inhibit seed germination in soil by 27-28 percent. Grass's germination chance has been lowered by 10%, and its length has been reduced by 13%. As a result, cigarette residues have a deleterious influence on the plant's germination success and stem length. The weight of grass and shrub stems is reduced by half, in particular. Cigarette filters reduce soil fertility by 10 to 26 percent.

According to the few studies conducted, the most used cigarette filters are thrown in the environment and are carried to coastal areas by wind, rain, river, and marine currents. Nowadays, the most frequently gathered thing during bench cleaning is cigarette filters. Cigarette filters deteriorate slowly over several years, depending on the environment, containing nicotine, metals (e.g., cadmium, arsenic), and other organic substances formed from tobacco combustion. Cigarette filters in marine habitats may pose a concern to human health due to their toxicity and low degradability, which can be transmitted, fragmented, accumulated in the food chain, and then consumed. By another study, smoked filters significantly reduced the relative prevalence of Bacteroidetes and Cyanobacteria in marine sediments, while increased the frequency of Gammaproteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Thermotogae. Confirmed in this study that toxic cigarette filters have an effect on the microbial population in coastal marine sediments.

Toxic metals found in cigarette filters have been shown to have significant carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic health consequences when inhaled. Cigarette residue filters are typically discarded in the open, causing cellulose acetate to degrade into smaller fibers due to weathering and erosion. These synthetic fibers float in the atmosphere and enter our bodies via respiration. Cigarettes are highly addictive substances. Cigarettes have a detrimental influence on each body organ, environment and economy. Cigarette smoking causes many infectious diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and asthma, and smoking while pregnant, whether directly or indirectly, is harmful to both the unborn baby and mother. According to a study, smoking causes 90% of lung cancers. And the smoked filter is once again causing harm to humans and animals through environmental pollution. Not only chemical or heavy metal pollution is increasing, but also plastic pollution.

Bangladesh is one of the most heavily smoked countries in the world. Cigarettes are extensively available and readily available for retail purchase, which means that people smoke everywhere. However, smoking and its sale are strictly regulated in other regions of the world. While we have anti-smoking laws, they are not strictly enforced. Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016 demonstrate that about 48 million people over the age of 15 are exposed to secondhand smoke. Cigarette filters cannot be reduced unless the rate of smoking is reduced. In addition to environmental pollution, various physical and mental problems are increasing. In order to remedy this, we need to be aware of ourselves as well as strict enforcement of the law. People should be discouraged from smoking cigarettes or tobacco. Cigarettes should be smoked in the specified place and used filter should be thrown in the designated place. The city corporation authorities have to collect these and recycle them or dispose of them in places where there is no harm to the people. This type of cellulose acetate or synthetic fiber recycle can be used to make various household items and it will play a role in increasing employment. Honorable Prime Minister of the Government of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina said in the concluding session of the South Asian Speakers Summit held on 31 January 2016 that "Bangladesh will be tobacco-free by 2040".

Professor Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, Dean, Faculty of Science, Chairman, Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh, Founder and Chairman, Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS) and Joint Secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), E-mail: Kamrul_sub@hotmail.com

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts