Researchers have discovered two new cancer-causing chemicals in the vapors emitted by e-cigarettes. The findings, which were published this month in Environmental Science and Technology, suggest that the popular devices are anything but healthy.
“Advocates of e-cigarettes say emissions are much lower than from conventional cigarettes, so you’re better off using e-cigarettes,” Hugo Destaillats, the study’s author, said in a statement. “I would say, that may be true for certain users — for example, long time smokers that cannot quit — but the problem is, it doesn’t mean that they’re healthy. Regular cigarettes are super unhealthy. E-cigarettes are just unhealthy,
For this study, Destaillats and colleagues at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used two vaporizers operated at different battery settings to simulate vaping with three different e-liquids. A total of 29 different chemicals were detected in e-cig vapors, including propylene glycol and glycerin.
Propylene glycol and glycerin are used in vaping liquids to create artificial smoke. However, the federal government considers them to be “possible carcinogens.” The authors of the study also noted that the two chemicals break down when heated, creating other toxins like acrolein and formaldehyde.
The tests also found that higher temperatures inside an e-cigarette coil result in more chemical emissions. Puffs taken at different times also released varying amounts of chemicals, with the highest emissions observed when the device was used at a “steady state” with constant heat. The lowest emissions occurred while the e-cigarette was still heating up.
This isn’t the first time cancer-causing chemicals have been found in e-cigarette vapors. In 2009, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that its own tests had detected “levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various cartridges.”
In May, the agency banned the sale of e-cigarettes, as well as cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco, to minors. The FDA also said that it would require manufacturers to submit these products to the agency for regulatory review, provide it with a list of product ingredients, and place health warnings on their product packages and in advertisements.
“Today’s announcement is an important step in the fight for a tobacco-free generation – it will help us catch up with changes in the marketplace, put into place rules that protect our kids and give adults information they need to make informed decisions,” Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement announcing the new regulations.