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Variation in, and Causes of, Toxicity of Cigarette Butts to a Cladoceran and Microtox


Cigarette butts are the most numerically frequent form of litter in the world. In Australia alone, 24–32 billion cigarette butts are littered annually. Despite this littering, few studies have been undertaken to explore the toxicity of cigarette butts in aquatic ecosystems. The acute toxicity of 19 filtered cigarette types to Ceriodaphnia cf. dubia (48-hr EC50 (immobilization)) and Vibrio fischeri (30-min EC50 (bioluminescence)) was determined using leachates from artificially smoked cigarette butts. There was a 2.9- and 8-fold difference in toxicity between the least and most toxic cigarette butts to C. cf. dubia and V. fischeri, respectively. Overall, C. cf. dubia was more inherently sensitive than V. fischeri by a factor of approximately 15.4, and the interspecies relationship between C. cf. dubia and V. fischeri was poor (R2 = 0.07). This poor relationship indicates that toxicity data for cigarette butts for one species could not predict or model the toxicity of cigarette butts to the other species. However, the order of the toxicity of leachates can be predicted. It was determined that organic compounds caused the majority of toxicity in the cigarette butt leachates. Of the 14 organic compounds identified, nicotine and ethylphenol were suspected to be the main causative toxicants. There was a strong relationship between toxicity and tar content and between toxicity and nicotine content for two of the three brands of cigarettes (R2 > 0.70) for C. cf. dubia and one brand for V. fischeri. However, when the cigarettes were pooled, the relationship was weak (R2 < 0.40) for both test species. Brand affected the toxicity to both species but more so for V. fischeri.

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Correspondence to M. St. J. Warne.

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Micevska, T., Warne, M.S.J., Pablo, F. et al. Variation in, and Causes of, Toxicity of Cigarette Butts to a Cladoceran and Microtox. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 50, 205–212 (2006).

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  • Nicotine
  • Nicotine Content
  • Cigarette Tobacco
  • Ethylphenol
  • Cigarette Butt