We all know smoking is bad for us, yet millions of people still smoke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 15 percent of Americans, or more than 40 million people, still light up a cigarette everyday. Compared to the 42 percent of the population that smoked in 1965, it seems like we are making some progress.
Despite all the efforts being made, smoking remains the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing some 443,000 Americans every year. As stated by the CDC, smoking kills more people than obesity, drug abuse, infectious disease, firearms, and traffic accidents.
But what exactly is it that makes cigarettes so bad for our health? While we all know about the addictive effects of nicotine, not many people realize that cigarettes contain more than 4000 other chemicals. Of these chemicals, at least 40 are known carcinogens, and 400 are proven to be toxic to some degree.
Are you a smoker? Let’s look at ten of the most toxic substances found in cigarettes. Hopefully, this article will make you think twice before lighting up your next cigarette.
In humans, benzene has been linked to leukemia or blood cancer, anemia, genetic damage, and excessive bleeding. It is one of the most basic chemicals used in the petrochemical industry and present in crude oil, gasoline, and pesticides. Cigarette smoke accounts for about half of the benzene exposure in the United States.
Used to preserve dead bodies and kill microbes, formaldehyde can cause eye irritation and coughing, among other health-related issues for both smokers and passive (second hand) smokers.
Tar, the black sticky compound added to road-making materials is also produced when tobacco is burned. It has been linked to cancer and turns your teeth yellow.
Another dangerous, cancer-causing chemical found in cigarettes is arsenic. Arsenic can accumulate in the body over time. Since it can interfere with the body’s ability to repair DNA, it may also boost the effect of other health-damaging chemicals.
Cadmium, also used in the production of batteries, is a toxic metal found in cigarettes. Not only has it been linked to cancer, but exposure to this chemical can also damage the kidneys and the linings of arteries.
You may know chromium from dyes, paints, and metallic alloys. When inhaled, this chemical acts as the glue between carcinogens and DNA, resulting in total DNA damage which may cause cancer or other health related issues.
Hydrogen cyanide is a known carcinogen that damages the cilia in the lungs. These hair-like structures line the airways and help clear toxins from the body. When these cilia get destroyed, toxins can enter the bloodstream more quickly via the lungs.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas released whenever fuel or cigarettes are burned. Tobacco smoke contains 3 to 5 percent CO. CO affects the whole body by binding to red blood cells, which results in less oxygen being transported throughout the body.
Nitrogen oxide is a common air pollutant also found in cigarette smoke. It causes lung inflammation and heavy breathing in regular smokers.
Ammonia, commonly found in many households to clean toilet bowls, is also found in cigarettes. In fact, ammonia is the chemical in cigarettes that enhances the addictive effect of nicotine.
These chemicals are only the tip of the iceberg.