Cigarette butts collected at one Bay Area high school’s student parking lots on one day. Credit: Kazuyoshi Fujita and Jeremiah Mock,JUUL,

Vape waste is a problem that has become progressively worse over the last six months: the amount of vape waste found on beaches, in parks and in other public spaces is growing day by day, said University of California at San Francisco researcher Yogi Hendlin.

Emptied pods, also known as cartridges, contain residual nicotine, propylene glycol and benzoic acid, while vape pens, the battery-operated e-cigarettes that heat the fluid for vaping, contain lead and mercury that can leach into soil or sand.

High schools in the San Francisco Bay Area are being contaminated by plastics and toxic litter from e-cigarettes, cannabis products and combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes and cigarillos, a new study by researchers at UC San Francisco has found.

The study of a dozen Bay Area high schools uncovered hundreds of waste items littering the parking lots and sidewalks in and around the schools.

JUUL pods, caps, and packaging collected at one Bay Area high school’s student parking lots on one day. Credit: Kazuyoshi Fujita.


These toxic products are contaminating school environments and surrounding areas, going down storm drains and contaminating the bay”said Jeremiah Mock, said first author Jeremiah Mock, PhD, a health anthropologist and associate professor in UCSF’s School of Nursing’s Institute for Health and Aging. He also is a member of UCSF’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

In addition to reflecting the widespread use of these products among teens, the researchers say these items are an environmental hazard due to the heavy metals, plastics, nicotine, lithium-ion batteries and other toxins these products can contain, said Jeremiah Mock.

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of vaping, especially by youth using flavored products.
Often, the vaping takes place in the bathrooms, classrooms and parking lots at their schools.

From 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use among U.S. high schools increased by 78 percent, from 12 percent of high school students to 21 percent and by 48 percent among middle school students, according to the CDC.

The new garbology study of environmental contamination was conducted at 12 public high schools in San Francisco, Contra Costa, Alameda and Marin counties.

Researchers and student interns collected waste items from the student parking lots and exterior perimeter areas on a single day at each school between July 2018 and April 2019.

Altogether, nearly 900 waste items were collected: approximately 19 percent of the product waste was from e-cigarettes, nearly all of these were JUUL or JUUL-compatible pods and pod caps.

For more information
University of California San Francisco UCSF
E-Cigarettes, Tobacco and Cannabis Products Are Littering High Schools

UCSF Health

Notes from the Field: Environmental Contamination from E-cigarette, Cigarette, Cigar, and Cannabis Products at 12 High Schools — San Francisco Bay Area


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