Cigarette butts, plastic filters and other remnants of smoked cigarettes can pollute soil, beaches and waterways. Studies have also shown that cigarette waste is harmful to wildlife.
- A study of the effects of roadside waste on soil found that patterns of hydrocarbon levels in the soil were similar to those of littered cigarette butts. This indicates that the chemicals in the soil had seeped out of cigarette butts. Some hydrocarbons are carcinogenic.
- Cigarette butts cause pollution by being carried, as runoff, to drains and from there to rivers, beaches and oceans.
- Preliminary studies show that organic compounds (such as nicotine, pesticide residues and metal) seep from cigarette butts into aquatic ecosystems, becoming acutely toxic to fish and microorganisms.
- In one laboratory study, the chemicals that leached from a single cigarette butt (soaked for 24 hours in a liter of water) released enough toxins to kill 50 percent of the saltwater and freshwater fish exposed to it for 96 hours.
- Another laboratory study found that cigarette butts can be a point source for heavy metal contamination in water, which may harm local organisms.