E-cigarettes may contain harmful chemicals that are not listed

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Experts say the chemicals in e-cigarette aerosols could increase the health risk from vaping.
Vladimir Grigorev / EyeEm / Getty Images
  • Researchers say e-cigarette aerosols could contain nearly 2,000 potentially harmful chemicals.
  • Experts say these chemicals could increase the health risks associated with vaping.
  • They point out that e-cigarette chemicals are not strictly regulated and some manufacturers may not even be aware of some of the substances in their products.

At a time when people are more concerned than ever about what they’re putting into their bodies, a recent study shows that users of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices potentially ingest thousands of unidentified chemicals released from are not disclosed to the manufacturers.

Of the nearly 2,000 chemicals researchers were able to identify, at least six were potentially harmful, according to the study published in the journal last week Chemical research in toxicology, which examined the aerosols generated by the devices.

The researchers found industrial materials and caffeine among the substances, even if it was not coffee or chocolate.

The products also produced three industrial chemicals, a pesticide and two flavors, which are linked to possible toxic effects and respiratory irritation, according to researchers.

“More and more young people are using these e-cigarettes and they need to know what they are facing,” says Carsten Prasse, PhD, MSc, study co-author and assistant professor of environment, health and technology at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering Maryland, in a press release.

“E-cigarette aerosols contain other completely unknown chemicals that could pose health risks that we are not yet aware of,” said Dr. Prasse.

Although often advertised as being safer than tobacco cigarettes, research has shown that e-cigarettes can also damage the heart and lungs.

Unlike previous studies looking for evidence of chemicals in cigarettes, Prasse’s team tried to identify all of the chemicals in the aerosols.

The team tested four popular products: Juul, Blu, Mi-Salt and Vuse.

The researchers said that among the substances they found were hydrocarbon-like compounds that are normally associated with combustion that manufacturers say are not produced by evaporation.

The researchers emphasized that condensed hydrocarbons that are formed when smoking are poisonous in cigarettes.

Dr. Albert Rizzo, FACP, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, told Healthline it is possible that manufacturers are not aware of all of the chemicals in their products.

“It’s not just possible, it’s likely,” said Rizzo. “Many manufacturers buy liquids from other companies and then add additional chemicals – flavors – before selling them to the public. In addition, there are chemical reactions, both due to the interaction of the chemicals and the heating of the liquid by the battery, which can also trigger new reactions and increase toxicity. “

Dr. Robert Goldberg, a pulmonologist at Providence Mission Hospital in Southern California, told Healthline that the fluid may be the key to the unknown ingredients.

“Studies continue to show that e-cigarette smoking can cause significant lung damage because liquids found in vapor and e-cigarette products contain different ingredients and compounds,” Goldberg said. “The challenge with liquid and e-cigarette aerosols, however, is that chemicals can pose health risks that we are still learning about.

“Also, the chemicals in e-cigarette liquids are currently not strictly regulated in some cases,” he said.

Gabriel Nunez, a laboratory technician at Consumer’s Health Report who analyzes the safety of nutritional supplements, told Healthline that e-cigarette manufacturers do not need to list all of their ingredients on product labels.

“You are only required to make it available to the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] with information about the potential harm and risk of the compounds used to formulate their products, ”said Nunez. “Many of the harmful compounds like artificial flavors are actually recognized as safe by the FDA. No tests are required to determine how safe the ingredient is once it has been heated to a certain temperature. “

“This unregulated area of ​​formulation allows the consumer to use various compounds that become unsafe and active when heated and inhaled,” said Nunez. “Remember, the FDA’s Safe Ingredients list was brought into play long before e-cigarettes were made. Because of this. Manufacturers take advantage of using various ingredients that are made unsafe by heat burn, such as various hydrocarbon compounds. “

And the danger extends to people who are around another person while vaping.

“The surgeon general has made it clear that inhaling second-hand e-cigarette emissions is not safe,” said Rizzo. “While much remains to be clarified about the long-term health effects of these products, the American Lung Association is very concerned about the emerging knowledge about the effects of e-cigarettes on the lungs.”


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