Project Director

Potts, Gretchen E.

Department Examiner

Chatzimanolis, Stylianos; Mies, Jonathan; Lynch, John


Dept. of Chemistry


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Cigarette litter can have detrimental effects on the environment, specifically when taking into account that over 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered every year. Within seawater, trace elements present in cigarettes may leach into the ocean, having damaging effects on the marine ecosystem. The goal of this research was to investigate if elemental contaminants leached from cigarette litter are significant in samples of seawater collected near St. Simon’s Island at both high and low tides, surrounding a beach party during the Florida/Georgia football game which occurred on November 1, 2014. Samples were collected in the months prior to and during the event. This project also explored a gallium coprecipitation methodology for elemental isolation. This gallium coprecipitation technique was investigated in order to determine the chemistry behind why gallium is beneficial in the precipitation process as noted by previous research. Samples of gathered seawater were mixed with a gallium standard, and the pH of the solutions were increased to 10 with sodium hydroxide. The formed precipitates were filtered, collected, and re-dissolved with concentrated nitric acid. The concentrated samples were then diluted for elemental analysis by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). The elements of interest were aluminum (Al), arsenic (As), barium (Ba), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), lead (Pb), manganese (Mn), nickel (Ni), silver (Ag), strontium (Sr), thallium (Tl), titanium (Ti), and zinc (Zn). The different elemental concentrations that were gathered underwent independent samples t-test to determine if a significant difference in the samples collected was present. Powder X-ray diffraction (power XRD) was also utilized to determine the crystalline composition of samples with and without gallium to explore the gallium coprecipitation technique.


UTC Chemistry and Physics Department Dr. Jonathan Mies from the UTC Geology Program Veronica Hubble (previous student, now at NCSU) Dr. Seong min Park from UTC Criminal Justice Program Provost Student Research Award Summer Undergraduate Research Program Grote Research Fund Katy Smith from the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service


B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.




Litter (Trash); Cigarettes; Environmental chemistry


Cigarette pollution; Ocean water; Elemental contaminants


Environmental Chemistry

Document Type



72 leaves




Under copyright.


Date Available