Environmental fate of cigarette butts and their toxicity in aquatic organisms: A comprehensive systematic review

Environ Res. 2021 Apr;195:110881. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.110881. Epub 2021 Feb 16.


Cigarette butts (CBs) are the most frequently littered pieces of environmental wastes which are released both directly and indirectly into the environment and finally may reach aquatic environments and contaminate aquatic biomes. However, to date, there is no comprehensive review on the extent and magnitude of the potential effects of CBs on aquatic organisms. Hence, a systematic review of published studies was conducted in this paper to survey the fate of CBs in the aquatic environments and also the impacts of exposure to CBs on survival, growth, and reproduction of aquatic organisms. The gathered data showed that the leachates of CBs in the aquatic environment could extremely be toxic for various organisms and increasing the exposure time, increases the mortality rate. In addition, smoked filtered CBs with tobacco remnants have higher mortality rate compared to unsmoked filtered butts (USFs) for Hymenochirus curtipes, Clarias gariepinus, tidepool snails, Atherinops affinis and Pimephales promelas. The fate of CBs in the aquatic environments is affected by various factors, and prior to sinking they are floated for a long time (long distance). Hence, CBs and their associated toxic chemicals might be ingested by diverse aquatic organisms. However, further studies are necessary to understand the exact toxicity of CBs on different freshwater and marine organisms and also their fate in the aquatic media. The results of this review showed the essentiality of regulations to prevent the release of chemical and toxic compounds into the aquatic environments.

Keywords: Adverse effects; Aquatic organisms; Cigarette butts; Environmental wastes; Toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms
  • Fresh Water
  • Smoke / analysis
  • Tobacco
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / toxicity


  • Smoke
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical