Vaping has emerged as a healthy alternative to smoking. However, it is not. Studies show that the chemicals used in vaping are more harmful than cigarette smoke. It can cause “popcorn lung” and other health problems. Consequently, vaping is new on the scene. To clarify, we have yet to determine the long term effects on health. However, the early indicators are not good.
For example, the “e-juice” that goes into vape pens.
The selling points of the “safety” of e-liquids is that the products contain relatively few ingredients. Additionally, many ingredients are now on the FDA’s Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list.
Consequently, E-liquids have propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin in them. As a result, this forms the liquid base for additional additives. For example, they add chemical flavorings and nicotine.
To clarify, aldehydes, organic components often associated with aromas (such as those of berries). And, other additives used for flavoring on the GRAS list. These are safe for food — not smoking or vaping.
Yet, e-liquids are rife with them: cinnamaldehyde imparts the sweet spicy taste of cinnamon; vanillin for vanilla notes; and benzaldehyde is the unmistakable taste of almonds. Certainly, other common flavoring elements such as diacetyl give a creamy or buttery depth to e-liquids.
Studies look at the effects of these ingredients when subjected to heat or vaporization. And, they found that they can cause the formation of formaldehyde and other cancer-causing chemicals. In addition to causing irritation and inflammation of the lungs.
Now new research says that the chemicals begin to react. Consequently, this creates unknown byproducts when the e-liquid is mixed.
“It’s entirely possible that there may be tens or even potentially hundreds of compounds forming. We just don’t know much about them,” Sven-Eric Jordt, PhD. Sven is a professor of anesthesiology, pharmacology, and cancer biology at Duke University School of Medicine.
Jordt is also a co-author on a new study. This study suggests the problem of understanding what is in e-liquids is far more complex than it seems. How it is marketed is problematic.
“It’s known that these flavors, especially the aldehydes there, are quite reactive. They can form adducts, reaction products, with the solvents,” Jordt told Healthline. “We found that a large proportion, sometimes forty-percent or more of the flavor, is reacting with the solvent after mixing. As a result, a large proportion of the flavor is converted into these reaction products.”
Moreover, the reactivity of e-liquids not only makes clear labeling of ingredients more difficult. From a regulatory perspective, it also makes it harder. Because we don’t know the effects the unknown byproducts. Similarly we don’t know the effect it will have on the lungs and body when vaporized.
Consequently, chemical reactions occur in these products as they sit in a bottle awaiting sale.
“These liquids are unstable. You don’t even need to heat them or oxidize them to form chemical reaction products,” said Jordt.
And, these byproducts are making their way into the lungs of those who vape.
The study found that some of the byproducts formed. In the e-liquid solution had a 50 to 80 percent carryover concentration when vaporized. To clarify, they don’t break down during the vaporization process.
A “significant” amount of these chemicals “will reach the airways during vaping,” wrote the authors.
Another recent study published in the journal Toxics found that vaporized e-liquids expose users to dangerous levels of aldehydes.
In that small pilot study (only twelve participants). Subsequently, researchers did a chemical analysis of the breath of participants before and after using electronic cigarettes.
As a result, they found that the average concentration of aldehydes in the breath was high. Consequently, it was ten-and-half times higher than before vaping.
Additionally, the concentration of noxious chemicals. For example, formaldehyde in the breath was “hundreds of times lower” than in the vapor itself. In short, researchers conclude “a significant amount remains in the user’s respiratory tract.”
In some cases, formaldehyde exposure was comparable to traditional cigarettes.
“It’s unacceptable that the cigarette industry say e-cigarattes are safe. And, at the same time they are breathing in these toxic chemicals,” said Sward. “It really speaks to the fact that the tobacco industry has not changed at all. ”Diacetyl, the component responsible for butter and cream flavors in e-cig juices was problematic. Subsequently, it caused workers in a microwave popcorn manufacturing plant in the U.S. to become sick and die. Getty Images
Perhaps most puzzling about FDA’s slow response to the growing body of research. Regarding the deleterious effects of e-liquid flavorings. Many of the ingredients are harmful when inhaled over time.
“Some of these flavorings have a very bad track record,” Dr. Jacqueline Moline, vice president, occupational medicine, epidemiology, and prevention, Northwell Health, Manhasset, New York, told Healthline.
Studies have shown in recent years the toxic effects of cinnamaldehyde, vanillin, and diacetyl on the lungs. Especially, when vaporized in e-cigarettes. But, these chemicals were already on the radar of regulatory agencies. For instance, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have been under scrutiny.
Vanillin and cinnamaldehyde are associated with higher chemical toxicity levels in e-cigarettes. This is one reason to quit vaping.
Cinnamaldehyde is also identified as an eye, skin, and respiratory irritant by OSHA.
Diacetyl, the component responsible for butter and cream flavors. As a result, caused workers in a microwave popcorn manufacturing plant in the United States to become sick and die. Another big reason to quit vaping.
The cause: “popcorn lung,” or bronchiolitis obliterans. A scarring of the lung tissue that causes narrowing of the airways. Thus, leading to shortness of breath, wheezing, and symptoms similar to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Inhalation exposure to another common e-cigarette flavoring component, 2,3-pentanedione is harmful. It results in damage to the airways similar to diacetyl.
“For decades, workers have been the canaries in the coal mine. They’ve been exposed to compounds at the highest rates. We’ve typically learned from these high exposures what detrimental health effects there can be. For us to allow higher rates in product is just an anathema to public health,” said Moline.
There are many health reasons to quit vaping.