Is cigarette ash biodegradable? (5 properties of cigarette ash) 

The article will detail the biodegradability aspect of cigarette ash. Other covered topics would be: 

  • What is cigarette ash?
  • What are the health implications of cigarette ash?
  • What is the environmental impact of cigarette ash?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Are there any applications of cigarette ash?
  • FAQs

Is cigarette ash biodegradable?

Cigarette ash is not biodegradable as it contains harmful chemicals that may remain in the environment or landfill setups for several years. 

Cigarette ash and cigarettes are known to cause harmful implications on health and the environment leading to loss of life and substantiality. 

However, as per recent research, cigarette ash may be used to remove arsenic from water which is poison leading to paralysis, stomach issues, and skin discolouration. 

What is cigarette ash? (5 properties of cigarette ash) 

Cigarette ash, otherwise known as tobacco ash, is the residue of the complete combustion of tobacco. 

It is a matter of piqued curiosity that what are the uses and effects of cigarette ash. When cigarettes are smoked, there are two residues left. One is the cigarette butt and the other is cigarette ash which is the result of the combustion of tobacco and other chemicals found in cigarettes. 

However, it is questioned what are the environmental and health impacts of cigarette ash. What is it made of and are there any applications of cigarette ash?

This article will cover all the relevant questions regarding cigarette ash and also shed light on the biodegradability aspect of cigarette ash. 

Cigarette ash may have the following properties: 

  • Amorphous powder
  • Alkaline in reaction 
  • Insoluble in water
  • Insoluble in organic solvent 
  • Partially soluble in dilute acids 

The chemical composition of cigarettes ash is the following: 

  • Potassium oxide 
  • Phosphates
  • Calcium 
  • Magnesium 
  • Sulphates
  • Chlorine
  • Sodium 

These are the common elements found in cigarette ash. Other than these elements, there may also be iron oxide and alumina while also there may be traces of unburned carbon. 

Cigarette ash may also contain a number of chemicals used in cigarettes such as tobacco and nicotine. This may also prove harmful to humans and the environment. 

What are the health implications of cigarette ash?

This section will cover the health impacts and implications caused by cigarette ash. It is argued that cigarette ash may cause health implications such as effects on the skin, stomach issues, and damage to the lungs. 

There are a number of health risks associated with cigarette smoking. It is argued that cigarette smoking affects all parts and organs of our bodies. 

Some researchers even argue that smoking one cigarette may decrease a person’s life by 11 minutes. 

Cigarettes are known to be a major contributor to cancer including lung cancer, skin cancer, and cervical cancer. People who smoke cigarettes are up to 30 times more vulnerable to cancer and mutation. 

Cigarettes are also known to cause infertility and erectile dysfunction. There are effects reciprocated on future generations as well. 

Other impacts of cigarettes include: 

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma 
  • Addictive problems 
  • Blood clotting
  • Skin issues
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unhealthy teeth 
  • Coughing which may be persistent
  • Anxiety 
  • Cancer
  • Heart diseases
  • Lungs dysfunctions
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Bronchitis 
  • Eye diseases

What is the environmental impact of cigarettes?

The environmental impacts of cigarettes and cigarette ash can be concluded into the following points: 

  • Deforestation 
  • Waterways contamination
  • Effects on aquatic life 
  • Soil degradation 
  • Waste accumulation 
  • Emission of Greenhouse gases 

The impacts of cigarette smoking are not only limited to human health but are also reciprocated directly to the environment. 

Cigarettes, when disposed of in waterways, may impact the aquatic life and aquatic ecosystem because fishes may ingest cigarette waste. 

This may result in exacerbated scenarios and even the killing of fish. As per research, one cigarette waste was sufficient to kill a fish in 1 litre of water. When fishes are affected by cigarette waste, all the related aspects and elements of food chains are also impacted. 

Another great impact rendered by cigarette smoking is the issue of deforestation. One of the main ingredients to make cigarettes is tobacco which is obtained from plants. 

The huge amount of cigarette production means that the sources of raw materials for cigarettes are exploited which leads to the cutting of trees and deforestation. 

Deforestation, then, in turn, leads to other exacerbated effects such as disruption of ecosystems, atmospheric degradation, soil erosion, loss of habitats et cetera. 

The waste produced from cigarette smoking directly affects and pollutes waterways. Cigarette waste is one of the most common waste sources in water bodies, primarily the oceans. Their impacts are also reciprocated to aquatic and marine life. 

Another grave implication that is anchored by the smoking of cigarettes is the fact that cigarette smoking is a direct promoter of air pollution. It leads to the emission of harmful gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane. 

These gases are termed greenhouse gases because they are responsible for increasing the global temperature to dangerous levels. 

As a result, many harmful environmental anomalies are observed and studied. These may include rising sea levels, floods, loss of life, unprecedented weather patterns, disruption of ecosystem, substantial damages (like crop damages), et cetera. 

As per stats, it is claimed that cigarettes release more than 3 billion kgs of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which plays a blunt role in environmental degradation. 

Another harmful effect of smoking cigarettes is the induction of forest fires that may result in loss of life and substantiality. 

Discarded cigarette buts or cigarette lighters may initiate forest fires that kill animals, and humans and cause grave economic crises. In the US alone, more than 27 billion dollars are lost to forest fires of which cigarettes are a major cause. 

Forest fires also release huge amounts of harmful gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which cause environmental degradation and global warming. 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability is defined as the microbial breakdown of waste into simpler substances so that the waste may become a part of nature again. 

You may wonder why this is important. The process of breakdown of waste into simpler substances is important because it reduces waste accumulation and assimilation. 

If there is waste accumulation, there will be negative impacts of the waste on the environment and human life. 

There are some factors that are essential for the biodegradation process. These factors may include 

  • Microbes
  • Aeration 
  • Sunlight 
  • Temperature 
  • Pressure 
  • Other external conditions 

You may think of biodegradability as a natural dustbin because it leads to waste segregation. If there is no biodegradability, there will be negative effects reciprocated to life and the environment. 

Based on biodegradability, there is a general understanding that waste may be categorised into two classes. One is biodegradable waste and the other is non-biodegradable waste. 

Biodegradable waste is the type of waste which may be degraded by the action of microbes. There is a general rule of thumb that products and substances made from natural sources like plants and animals are included in the list of biodegradable waste. 

Whereas, products and substances made from non-natural materials can not be broken down by the action of microbes and enzymes. These products are thus included in the category of non-biodegradable waste. 

There are a lot of known impacts of non-biodegradable waste which may include: 

  • Waste accumulation 
  • Ozone depletion 
  • GHG emission
  • Global warming 
  • Soil erosion
  • Deforestation 
  • Destruction of habitats 
  • Loss of life
  • Disruption of ecosystem 
  • Infiltration into the food chains

It is also argued that the effects of non-biodegradable waste are not just limited to the environment but are also expanded to life and human health. Below are some of the common negative impacts of non-biodegradable waste on life and human health:

  • Organ damage
  • Hormone disruption 
  • Lung dysfunction 
  • Cancer
  • Developmental issues
  • Neuro Complications 
  • Necrosis 
  • Damage to the foetus 
  • Behavioural issues and complications 

Are there any applications of cigarette ash?

In the previous sections, the negative effects of cigarettes and cigarette ash were studied and assessed on the environment and human health. 

It has been studied that cigarettes and cigarette ash lead to many environmental and health-related complications. 

In light of those deliberations, it can easily be concluded that the use of cigarettes and the production of cigarette litter leads to loss of life and substantiality while also affecting the environment. 

However, in this section, it shall be assessed if there are any applications and uses of cigarette ash.

It is claimed that despite the negative effects of cigarettes and cigarette ash on the environment, there may be some applications that can be curated from cigarette ash. 

In recent scientific endeavours, cigarette ash was used to remove arsenic from water and hence, cigarette ash was used as a form of filter. 

Arsenic is a poisonous element which may lead to a number of health complications such as stomach ache, stomach cramps, skin discolouration, and even partial paralysis. 

However, the removal methods that are commonly used to separate arsenic from water are quite limited and cost and energy consumptive. 

Hence, most of the developing and underdeveloped societies and setups are unable to achieve arsenic removal and this may impact the health of locals drastically. 

However, it was researched that cigarette ash may be used to remove arsenic from water and it was even argued that this process can be optimised to an efficiency of 96%. 

Is cigarette ash biodegradable?

In light of discussed literature, the following points are assumed: 

  • Natural materials like animal waste or plant waste are biodegradable whereas, non-natural materials like plastics are generally non-biodegradable
  • Cigarette ash contains harmful chemicals which may remain for many years. 

Therefore, it can be concluded that cigarette ash is not biodegradable as it would not readily degrade by the action of microbes. 

Conclusion 

It is concluded that cigarette ash is not biodegradable as it contains harmful chemicals that may remain in the environment or landfill setups for several years. 

Cigarette ash and cigarettes are known to cause harmful implications on health and the environment leading to loss of life and substantiality. 

However, as per recent research, cigarette ash may be used to remove arsenic from water which is poison leading to paralysis, stomach issues, and skin discolouration. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is cigarette ash biodegradable?

How long does cigarette litter take to degrade?

Cigarette litter may take up to 10 years to degrade which is mainly because of plastic fibres found in cigarette litter along with chemicals.

What are some harmful chemicals found in cigarette ash? 

The harmful chemicals present in cigarette ash may be nicotine, tobacco, acetone, ammonia, formaldehyde, benzene et cetera.

References

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  • Jaakkola, J. J., & Jaakkola, M. S. (2002). Effects of environmental tobacco smoke on the respiratory health of children. Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health, 71-83.
  • Florescu, A., Ferrence, R., Einarson, T., Selby, P., Soldin, O., & Koren, G. (2009). Methods for quantification of exposure to cigarette smoking and environmental tobacco smoke: focus on developmental toxicology. Therapeutic drug monitoring, 31(1), 14-30.
  • Sherman, C. B. (1991). Health effects of cigarette smoking. Clinics in Chest Medicine, 12(4), 643-658.
  • Das, S. K. (2003). Harmful health effects of cigarette smoking. Molecular and cellular biochemistry, 253(1), 159-165.
  • Drope, J., Liber, A. C., Cahn, Z., Stoklosa, M., Kennedy, R., Douglas, C. E., … & Drope, J. (2018). Who’s still smoking? Disparities in adult cigarette smoking prevalence in the United States. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 68(2), 106-115.
  • Chen, H., Li, J., Wu, X., & Wang, X. (2014). Synthesis of alumina-modified cigarette soot carbon as an adsorbent for efficient arsenate removal. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, 53(41), 16051-16060.

 

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