The chemicals in cigarette butts are lethal to fish, and the finding is bolstering researchers who want coffin nails classified as toxic waste. San Diego State University researchers submerged filters from smoked cigarettes in tanks of water for 24 hours, then added fish. Within 5 days, half the fish died. Further investigation is needed to see whether enough butts are being discarded to have a similar effect on the world’s water.
Regardless of the outcome, public health experts are concerned: It might be harmless “if I pour a little vial of carcinogenic chemicals on the street,” an SDSU public health professor tells the San Diego Union-Tribune. “But if hundreds of thousands of people were doing so many times a day, wouldn’t someone worry about it? Probably so.”