Hundreds of cigarettes possibly impacting wildlife

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COLUMBIA - Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter, according to a study of research by the Library of Medicine National Institute of Health. One area of Columbia is no exception, and a viewer wanted KOMU 8 to check into a concern. 

If you drive down Lemone Industrial Boulevard, you are met with an orange and white dead end sign, blocking Hominy Creek. This sign also marks the place where dozens of workers from UM Health Care Quarterdecks take their daily smoke break.

A viewer brought the area to the attention of KOMU 8, concerned with the possible negative environmental impacts. KOMU 8 visited the location several times over several months and observed hundreds of cigarette butts on the ground, some right next to the creek. 

In this area, there are no cigarette depositories. Hundreds of cigarette butts are left in this area, rolling into the creek behind the sign, or getting caught in the plants and surrounding wildlife.

KOMU 8 News spoke with natural engineering specialist Kent Shannon at MU Extension to see if this form of litter will have any long term impact on the wildlife and water in the area.

"It is a non point source water pollutant, which means so we don't know exactly where the pollutant came from," Shannon said. "Cigarette butts could have been the issue, could have been a pesticide, could have been some other substance that got in the water source from that standpoint."

Shannon said about 250 million cigarettes are thrown away every year. 

He said cigarettes can be harmful in urban areas when people throw cigarettes out their car window. That litter makes its way to the storm drain and is later filtered out from drinking water.

KOMU 8 News asked several workers if they would use cigarette depositories if they were set up near the dead end location at UM Quarterdecks. Every worker said they would.

KOMU 8 News reached out to University Hospital; however, it was unavailable for comment.

It is unclear if the UM Quarterdecks will be getting a cigarette depositories in the future or if the existing cigarettes will be cleaned up.