Study Declares Cigarette Chemical Levels 'Not Toxic to Humans and Environment'
Sharwan D’Souza 12th September 2020
According to a recent study conducted by the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR) Lucknow, the chemical levels in the cigarette and beedi butts are lower than the government-prescribed limits, and are not toxic to humans and the environment.
Cigarette butt is a commonly found litter on earth, discarded in the roadsides, seashores or other public locations, posing a significant risk to the ecosystem. According to National Geographic, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are discarded annually all over the world.
In April 2019, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) administered the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to conduct a study to find out if cigarette and beedi butts fall under the category of toxic waste.
In October 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research to investigate chemical compositions of various brands of cigarettes and beedi butts (both burnt and unburnt) and to check if they fit the criteria.
According to the IITR, 10 brands of cigarette and beedi brands were used in the test. Almost all the levels of chemicals except endosulfan, listed in the class ‘A’ of schedule II 2016 were below the level of detection. Chemical levels of anthracene, phenanthrene and amines listed in class 'C' of Schedule-II 2016, were also lower than the prescribed limits under experimental conditions.
The analysis shows that the concentrations detected are not toxic to humans and the environment. However, it also said that the data on cellulose acetate, mediated human health risk assessment, and toxic responses are not available. Cellulose acetate makes up 95% of the cigarette butts along with the rayon and the wrapping paper.
IITR also said that, under the degradation studies, the cigarette butts have only shown 37.8% degradation in two years in the soil under ambient conditions. Only after the studies of degradation are finished under natural environmental and laboratory conditions, it can be concluded that the safety/toxicity of cigarette butts correlate with human and environmental health risk assessment. The IITR suggested recycling cellulose acetate after it is retrieved from the cigarette butts as an immediate solution to the issue until all the data is generated.
A plea was put forward by a doctors' body taking part in prohibition on consumption of tobacco in all public places and proper discarding of related waste. The NGT had issued notices regarding this to the MoEF, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and CPCB.
(Sources: The Economic Times, The Week and Top Live news)
Edited by Pratheek S