E-CIGARETTES can produce new toxic chemicals that trigger breathing and heart problems, experts have claimed.
The components used to create flavourings such as vanilla, berry and cinnamon mix with other solvents to form a dangerous combination.
Flavoured e-cigarettes can produce new toxic chemicals that can trigger breathing and heart problems, experts claim[/caption]
Vaping has been hailed as less harmful than smoking tobacco, but just how safe it is has been a matter of debate for experts.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation said that vaping was particularly risky for the developing brains of teenagers, and could damage a growing fetus.
The new research, published in the European Heart Journal, suggests that chemicals inside e-cigarettes could be toxic to cells in the lungs, blood vessels and heart.
Researchers from Duke University, North Carolina, looked at what happened when the lungs were exposed to flavouring chemicals.
These included vanillin and ethyl-vanillin, which create sweet vanilla flavours, benzaldehyde – or berry or fruit flavour – and cinnamaldehyde, which makes cinnamon flavour.
They also looked at the effect of the new chemicals that formed as a result of mixing the flavouring chemicals with propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerine (VG), which are the main solvents in e-cigarette liquids.
Professor Sven-Eric Jordt, who led the study, said: “We consistently observed that the new chemicals formed from the flavours and e-liquid solvents were more toxic than either of their parent compounds.
“The new chemicals derived from benzaldehyde and cinnamaldehyde were more toxic than the vanillin-derived compounds.”
He explained that e-cigarette manufacturers often claim that their devices are safe because they contain chemicals considered to be stable.
However, when they mix inside the gadgets they can form unstable compounds which could damage healthy cells, he warned.
The new chemical appeared to irritate receptors in nerve endings linked to the heart and blood vessels, as well as killing cells in the lungs.
This damage was identified even when the vapour was inhaled in low quantities, according to Prof Jordt.
But the scientists said they were surprised by their findings as they didn’t expect the chemicals to be more unstable and dangerous as they mixed.
Prof Jordt said: “We actually expected that the observed chemical reactions would inactivate benzaldehyde and other flavouring chemicals, making the products less toxic.
“However, we observed the opposite, finding the newly formed compounds to be more irritating and toxic.”
How safe is vaping in the UK?
In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality.
They’re not completely risk free, but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.
The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.
While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, it’s relatively harmless.
Almost all of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic.
Nicotine replacement therapy has been widely used for many years to help people stop smoking and is a safe treatment.
There’s no evidence so far that vaping causes harm to other people around you.
This is in contrast to secondhand smoke from smoking, which is known to be very harmful to health.
He said that manufacturers should list all the chemicals on their e-cigarette products – not only the original chemicals, but also those formed when the flavouring chemicals mix with the solvents and when the liquid is stored for any length of time.
“Our findings suggest that e-cigarettes release unstable chemical mixtures containing a large variety of chemical products with unexpected toxicological properties,” he said.
“Regulators need to be made aware that these compounds can form so that toxicology studies can be initiated to evaluate their safety.
E-cigarettes release unstable chemical mixtures containing unexpected toxicological properties
Professor Sven-Eric JordtDuke Unviersity
“They should conduct or fund additional research on the fate of chemicals in e-liquids, and especially their toxicology.
“Once toxicity levels are known, regulators can assess the level of risk to health from e-cigarettes and issue recommendations to manufacturers to reduce concentrations to mitigate risks to acceptable levels.”
What is EVALI?
EVALI stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury.
The term was developed by the CDC in the US in response to a multi-state outbreak of severe lung conditions.
There is currently no simple test for EVALI and experts work on a process of elimination as symptoms can be similar to other respiratory conditions.
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It comes after an outbreak of severe vaping-associated lung illness emerged among e-cigarette users last year almost exclusively in the US.
Initially, doctors were baffled by the surge in similar lung diseases before they were eventually linked to vape usage.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named the illness EVALI – which stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury.
As of January this year, a total of 2,711 people were in hospital with the disease, including 60 deaths, the CDC confirmed.
At least two Brits are feared to have died from vaping-related lung injuries in the past year, UK health officials revealed.
The medical regulator was understood to be investigating the deaths and has received 244 reports of adverse reactions to the devices.