E-Cigarette Flavors May Be Linked to Respiratory Disease
Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have linked chemicals contained in many flavored electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and liquids with a severe respiratory condition.
The study was recently published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal and found that out of the 51 flavors of e-juices and e-liquids tested, 47 contained at least one out of three harmful chemicals that could potentially cause a devastating respiratory condition.
The chemicals used in the flavorings came under fire several years ago when employees at a plant that processes microwave popcorn were diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, a severe respiratory condition that often requires a lung transplant. This bronchial condition is now referred to as “popcorn lung” and is thought to be caused by inhaling the chemicals found in the butter flavoring, mainly diacetyl.
Diacetyl and other chemicals used in butter flavoring, are often found in flavored alcohols and some fruit-flavored food items. These chemicals are also in many of the 7000 flavors of e-cigarettes currently on the market, states one of the study’s authors Joseph Allen an assistant professor of exposure assessment science. While the flavorings found in microwave popcorn are listed as safe, the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) list only acknowledges that this is true for consumption and not inhalation.
Along with Diacetyl, many flavored e-cigarettes also contain acetoin and 2,3-pentanedione which is also thought to be potentially harmful if inhaled.
92 Percent of the Flavors Tested Contain Potentially Dangerous Chemicals
Hypothesizing that many of these potentially harmful chemicals would also be found in flavored e-cigarettes, Professor Allen and his team of researchers choose 51 flavored liquids and e-cigarettes manufactured by the top brands. Using a sealed chamber, a special device was used to draw air from the e-cigarette for 8 seconds with short 15-30 second breaks in between. The air in the chamber was then analyzed for the presence of any of the chemicals.
The researchers found that diacetyl was present in 47 of the 51 e-cigarettes tested, while acetoin was detected in 46 flavors and 23 contained 2,3-pentanedione. Overall, the study found that 92 percent of the flavors chosen to be tested contained at least one or more of these potentially harmful chemicals. The study also showed that two flavors, “tobacco and menthol” contain diacetyl even though this is not currently included on the list of products known to contain the compound.
The study’s co-author Professor David Christiani stated that not only do flavored e-cigarettes contain nicotine, but also fomaldehyde and other cancer causing chemicals which can often lead to severe lung damage. With the link between diacetyl and certain types of respiratory diseases firmly established, researchers believe that further studies are needed to determine the exact risk e-cigarette users face when exposed to these chemicals.
Do Flavorings Make E-Cigarettes More Attractive to Teens and Children?
With flavors being named “Alien Blood”, “Cotton Candy” and “Cupcake”, among others, the authors of the study are also concerned about the appeal of these flavors . Many of the names are enticing to children and teenagers, which is particularly worrisome to researchers.
In 2012 the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimated that as many as 1.78 million teens and children had tried flavored e-cigarettes. Out of that total 160,000 children stated that they had never smoked a traditional cigarette before, which is helping to support a study published in Medical News Today that stated flavored e-cigarettes might be the reason many teens start smoking.
E-cigarettes are also gaining in popularity, and WHO (World Health Organization) stated that the U.S. spent $3 billion on the smokeless tobacco product with sales expected to increase 17 times higher in the next 15 years.
Surprisingly e-cigarettes are currently not regulated in the United States, even with the product’s growing popularity, though this might be changing in the coming years. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has recently proposed adding e-cigarettes to its list of regulated products that contain tobacco and nicotine. This change would potentially help regulate the chemicals currently found in e-cigarettes and liquids, and possibly prevent the addition of any other compounds.
Until the FDA does pass regulatory measures the need remains for researchers to continue to conduct studies on the potential risks and hazards associated with e-cigarettes and liquids. While these products can be an invaluable aid to helping consumers stop smoking, it is important to ensure that they are also as safe as possible.
Medical News Today did publish an independent review earlier in the year which purportedly found that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than traditional tobacco products, which does give those looking to stop smoking some hope for their future health.