By Kelsey Schell
Summer is finally here! All across Michigan people are planning outdoor activities and taking advantage of relaxing in Michigan’s Great Lakes. Unfortunately, pollution can influence how much time we can spend outdoors and enjoy our waterways. Even though Lansing does not border one of Michigan’s Great Lakes, Lansing’s pollution can influence the quality of the water. Littering is a huge problem that can kill wildlife and marine life. One of the biggest forms of waste littered everywhere is cigarette butts. Two thirds of all the cigarettes smoked end up being littered; making it the largest single type of litter in the world. These littered cigarette butts land in drains that can eventually end up on the shores of the Great Lakes or in our oceans. Local communities at their own expense are left to pick up the littered tobacco butts before they cause further harm.
Cigarette butts are not biodegradable products. Under sunny, summer weather, cigarette butts have the potential to break down into smaller pieces, leaking out a possible 7,000 chemicals that are contained in cigarettes. Two contaminates found in cigarettes, arsenic and metals, are known to be toxic to aquatic organisms. The leaking toxic chemicals have been linked to killing marine life. Fishing can be dangerous for a person’s health if the water has been polluted with tobacco waste. Over one hundred and seventy species of fish currently living in the Great Lakes and many are in danger of being killed off along with harm to swimmers ingesting the water.
As a former resident of Lansing and Michigan citizen who wants a healthy capital city, I call on Lansing to increase enforcement activities surrounding littering of tobacco butts. Taking action to protect public health by enforcing fines for people who litter can positively influence the environment. People need to know the importance of keeping the streets of Lansing clean; this will only increase efforts in keeping our beaches ready for the robust tourist season ahead.
Lansing needs to continue regulations to stop both public smoking and littering in all parks, public walkways and inland lakes creating a smoke free city. Lansing should be the city that is at the peak of good health and a prime example for all youth who are frequent visitors of the state’s capital. For information on how to quit smoking visit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services or call 800-784-8669. Keeping the environment clean by not smoking and not littering is an example that needs to come from Lansing, our capital city.
Kelsey Schell is a Western Michigan University MPH student.
This article was originally printed in the summer of 2017.