• 05.13.10

Toxic Cigarette Butts Could Prevent Steel From Rusting

cigarette butts

Cigarette smoking has eased up in the U.S., thanks to high prices and increasingly draconian laws (smoking banned on beaches, anyone?). The same can’t be said for China, where 300 million smokers go through an average of 16 cigarettes daily–in the process, the country smokes a third of the world’s cigarettes. Right now, most of China’s chemical-filled cigarette butts end up in the environment, where they can kill fish. But scientists at Xi’an Jiaotong University’s School of Energy and Power Engineering claim they have a new use for old butts as agents to prevent steel pipes from rusting.


According to Reuters, the researchers found that the nine chemicals found in cigarette butts–incluing nicotine–have an anti-corrosion effect when applied to steel found in oil pipes. Corrosion is a costly problem for the oil industry, which presumably is why the China National Petroleum Corporation funded the cigarette butt research. So the cigarette butt solution kills two birds with one stone–making use of toxic materials while also scaring the daylights out of anyone who wonders just how powerful the chemicals inside cigarettes really are. And of course, any extra butts can go toward upcycled cigarette butt rugs.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.