Can You Guess What Scientists Want To Do With Discarded Cigarette Ashes?

Scientists have big plans for the cigarette ashes that most smokers and restaurant personnel simply discard from ashtrays into the trash. Besides for smoking, another significant global health threat exists, and surprisingly, cigarette ashes might be able to help with this other threat.

Arsenic is found in drinking water around the globe, in addition to being a danger lurking in the global food supply. Arsenic is a “tasteless element that can cause skin discoloration, stomach pain, partial paralysis and a range of other serious health problems,” according to a press release from the American Chemical Society. The organization announced new research which demonstrates that cigarette ashes can be used to easily and inexpensively filter arsenic from drinking water.

Typically, removing arsenic from drinking water is an expensive task. It requires sophisticated water treatment equipment. Too many places around the globe lack this equipment. Other areas lack the skill and know-how to implement arsenic removal methods. Cigarette ashes are available in public places around the globe… for free. They are merely the waste from smokers left in ashtrays everywhere, but they have the potential to create healthier water. The research that was done involving cigarette ashes and their involvement in water treatment was published in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

Jiaxing Li, of the School of Environment and Chemical Engineering at North China Electric Power University, and colleagues on the research team explained that scientists have tried to create inexpensive water filtration methods using everything from banana peels to rice hulls, but nothing ever worked as well as researchers hoped. Cigarette ashes have a porous structure, do not rot, and are readily available. Li’s research team decided to test the efficacy of using cigarette ashes in their attempts to filter arsenic from drinking water, and it worked.

The process is a simple, one-step procedure: Cigarette ashes are prepared with a coating of aluminum oxide.

Aluminum oxide is insoluble in water. The version used was alumina (Al2O3), which is “bioinert and food compatible,” according to CeramTec.

When the researchers tested their water filtration method using the simply-prepared cigarette ashes, greater than 96 percent of arsenic was removed from ground water. At the levels presented in the final product, the water contained levels of arsenic below the standard that is set by the World Health Organization as suitable for drinking water.

The researchers say that because cigarette ashes are thrown away across the globe, they could easily be collected from public places that allow cigarette smoking.

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