Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

1 cigarette butt – 1000 litres of polluted water

Most of the complaints one hears about smoking concern its health hazards, while there is much less said about the damage that is still done after the cigarette is extinguished. Yet the cotton buds and straws targeted by those aiming to combat plastic pollution come a poor second in terms of polluting the seas – cigarette butts are clearly the winner.

It is certainly true that most of the materials in cigarettes are natural ones. Yet the filter, that is to say the butt, also contains plastic, a total of some 4000 compounds, with the result that a single discarded cigarette butt can pollute as much as 1000 litres of water.

If we add that 5.5 trillion cigarettes are manufactured each year, it is easy to conclude that cigarettes are a tremendous source of pollution. Luckily, many people have recognised the risk that the stubs pose. A number of NGOs are working to raise awareness of the problem, and there is a bill before the European Parliament that would oblige manufacturers to make provisions for the appropriate treatment of their products.

The world’s tobacco factories produce 5.5 trillion cigarettes every year – and a large proportion of their stubs end up polluting our natural waters Photo: Shutterstock

The Danube is full of microplastics

Microplastics polluting natural bodies of water – which are present in increasing quantities around the world – present a major environmental, food safety and health hazard. Among the rivers in Hungary that have been tested so far, the most were found in the Danube: 50 particles per cubic metre.

So recycling is expensive? What about the waste dumped in the oceans?

The plastic polluting the oceans costs mankind 2.5 trillion dollars a year. The authors of a study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin warned that previously, specialists had seriously underestimated the value of the social and economic damage caused by plastic waste.

Millions of children die each year due to lack of access to clean water

According to a UN report, a child died every five seconds somewhere in the world in 2017, but most of those deaths could have been prevented, as they were mostly caused by lack of clean water, hygiene, nutrition and basic healthcare services.

Polluted water is responsible for the tragedy of coral reefs

The disheartening condition of our wonderful coral reefs is one of the most painful examples of the shocking and perhaps irreversible environmental processes currently under way around us. According to an Australian study, the destruction of coral is caused by polluted river water, which inhibits their capacity to regenerate.