Pesticides discovered in tobacco smoke

Anti-smoking council demands labelling of dangerous ingredients in tobacco.

April 27, 2006 00:44
2 minute read.
cigarette butts 88

cigarette butts 88. (photo credit: )

The discovery in the US that tobacco smoke contains carcinogenic pesticides did not surprise the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, which demands that the Health Ministry recognize tobacco products as "drugs" and requires that manufacturers list all their harmful ingredients on a printed insert in each packet. Council chairman Amos Hausner was referring to news just issued by the Colorado School of Mines that previously undetected pesticides in tobacco smoke were discovered by its researchers and published online in the American Chemical Society journal, Analytical Chemistry. Hausner, the country's leading expert on tobacco legislation and control, told The Jerusalem Post that radioactive ingredients have already been identified in tobacco products. "These don't come naturally in the tobacco leaf; the farmers spray them with pesticides. This is just a symptom of the problem that even though cigarettes and other tobacco products are put in the mouth, the Health Ministry and no other government ministry checks their contents. Only the manufacturers know what is in them, and they are not required to report them to the public." Hausner added that food manufacture is strictly supervised and must carry detailed label information because it is filtered by the digestive system, which prevents some of the harmful components from reaching the brain and other vital organs. "But tobacco enters the body through the lungs and its toxins reach the brain and all the body's tissues. Independent lab tests have found remains of blood and fingernails in cigarettes. It's absurd that consumers are not informed what's in the tobacco they're smoking. We demand that they be told in writing." A proposal to regard tobacco as a drug under strict controls was made years ago to Judge Alon Gillon's Health Ministry-appointed committee charged with finding ways to reduce smoking, but nothing ever came of it because the chairman did not release any recommendations. Researchers John Dane, Crystal Havey and Kent Voorhees reported that using electron monochromator-mass spectrometry, they found three pesticides - suspected of being toxic to the human endocrine system as well as carcinogenic - in a wide sampling of experimental and commercial cigarette smoke samples. The three nitro-containing pesticides, commonly used in tobacco farming practices, survive the combustion process when cigarettes are lit and smoked, they wrote. None of the three pesticides has been previously reported in either the mainstream or sidestream (passive) smoke from current US tobacco. When the three unidentified compounds turned up in the smoke, the researchers used a unique selective and sensitive instrument to analyze the chemical "fingerprints" of the substances and identify the new compounds as dinitroaniline pesticides. They found the three pesticides in both mainstream and sidestream smoke, with the sidestream showing the higher levels for all three compounds. Although the pesticides are reduced in quantity, they survived the combustion at an estimated level of 10 percent of the original residue on the tobacco. Flumetralin, a suspected endocrine disrupter already banned for use on tobacco in Europe, belongs to a class of chemicals that may be active at minute levels, the researchers say. Endocrine disrupters can produce adverse effects on early development, reproduction and other hormonal processes. Pendimethalin and trifluralin are the other two pesticides identified in this study. Pendimethalin has been identified as an endocrine disrupter that specifically affects the thyroid. Trifluralin is also an endocrine disruptor that affects the reproductive and metabolic systems. Both compounds are suspected human carcinogens. "No information exists for long-term low-level inhalation exposures to these compounds," said Voorhees, "and no data exists to establish the possible synergistic effect of these pesticides with each other, or with the other 4,700-plus compounds that have been identified in tobacco smoke."

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