An international research project studying cigarettes is reporting to The Independent and Yahoo! AFP that Chinese cigarettes are laced with heavy metals including cadmium, lead and arsenic, potentially posing more health problems than they are already known to cause.
Thirteen brands were examined and all of them had high levels of heavy metals, with some containing triple the levels of cadmium, arsenic and lead found in Canadian cigarettes. All three metals have various applications and are either naturally found in the environment or put there as a byproduct of industries, but exposure large amounts or in certain chemical forms they can be very toxic.
Lead has been linked to blood disorders such as anemia, hypertension and renal damage. It can affect the nervous system and brain, especially in unborn and young children which can lead to learning difficulties and behavioral problems later on. Arsenic ingested in large amounts causes poisoning and death. Inorganic arsenic is the most toxic form, irritating the lining of the gut and the lungs and impairing production of blood cells. Skin problems, a decrease the immune system’s ability to fight off infections and brain damage are also side effects of arsenic. Cadmium toxicity has been linked to diarrhea, stomach pains, severe vomiting, bone fractures, problems of the immune system, psychological problems and can potentially damage DNA which can lead to the development of cancer.
Toxicity due to all three heavy metals has been associated with reproduction and fertility problems and nervous system damage.
Not only do these heavy metals pose health risk to individuals who smoke these cigarettes, but people in China have not been educated on the known dangers of cigarettes. The study found that warnings on cigarette packs in China were printed in English and there were no pictures showing the damage that smoking can do. Approximately 1,000,000 Chinese die annually due to tobacco-related disease, while 100,000 deaths are believed to be related to second-hand smoke.
Some may wonder why we should be concerned about what kind of cigarettes in China.
The study notes that:
“The presence of high levels of heavy metals in Chinese cigarettes may constitute a potential global public health problem as exports of Chinese cigarettes continue to increase.”
Cigarettes already have enough health risks associated with them, but this study demonstrates that lax regulations in other countries where they are manufactured may be making them more dangerous. This study also demonstrates how important it is to educate the public on the dangers of certain behaviors so they can make a well-informed decision.
[Img credit: Conor]