Posted: Jul 6, 2012 12:01 PM by Dan Shadwell
Clean-up crews working the beach in Pismo began about 5:30 the morning of the fifth of July and were done by 8am, gathering and dumping the majority of refuse left on the sand.
But one type of trash remains... cigarette butts. They're ubiquitous and toxic, the filtered receptacles for scores of carcinogens from burnt tobacco.
Brian Henson, Operations Chief with the City's Department of Public Works says the cigarette butts are also the toughest of the litter to eliminate. "We have to pick them up by hand. It's very time consuming. It takes a lot of our time and City resources."
Because cigarette butts are frequently discarded on the streets, they're swept by surface water into the storm drains and then into the ocean, carrying all sorts of poisons with them that can leach into the water.
A 2009 study from the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University concluded, "a single cigarette butt soaked for a day is enough to turn a liter of water a sickly yellow brown and kill 50% of the fish swimming in it. Without tobacco, it takes about four smoked filters to do the same job."
No comprehensive studies have assessed exactly how much those butts do collectively, but Rick Gersberg, one of the researchers on the SDSU study says it can't be good. He adds, "of course what kills the fish in a much lower level in certain chemicals can interrupt their growth,.. their reproduction."
Smoking on the beach is prohibited in Pismo Beach and on many other beaches around the state, though the city says enforcing that ban is a tall order and they rely on people to do the right thing.
But a quick stroll down the boardwalk suggests that's not enough to stem the tide and it's a global problem. According to one estimate cited by Discovery News, 4.5 trillion filters from spent cigarettes make their way into the environment every year.
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