E-cigarette users warned amid toxic flavouring fears
New research from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health claims that e-cigarette refills contain a chemical which could cause the life-threatening disease, Popcorn Lung.
Bronchiolitis obliterans, a non-reversible lung disease which can be caused by inhaling airborne diacetyl, a chemical used to produce the artificial butter flavouring in many foods, especially popcorn.
Diacetyl has been known as 'popcorn lung' after an incident in 2000, when factory workers inhaled an artificial butter flavour that led to a health complication. It saw their airways become inflamed and scarred, triggering a dry cough and severe shortness of breath.
Acetoin was also found in the air that day, while 2,3-pentanedione is often used as a substitute for both the other substances.
Experts now say that some flavoured liquid nicotine, like "cotton candy, fruit squirts, and cupcake", are packed full of diacetyl.
The effects of popcorn lung are, in some cases, so debilitating that a full lung transplant is required.
"Since most of the health concerns about e-cigarettes have focused on nicotine, there is still much we do not know about e-cigarettes," said David Christiani, professor of Environmental Genetics.
"In addition to containing varying levels of the addictive substance nicotine, they also contain other cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, and as our study shows, flavoring chemicals that can cause lung damage."
Researchers tested 51 types of flavoured e-cigarettes and liquid for their study, which was published in the health journal Environmental Health Perspective.
Each were tested for the chemicals diacetyl, acetoin and 2,3-pentanedione, which are deemed 'high priority' in posing a respiratory risk.
A total of 47 of the 51 e-cigarettes contained at least one of the chemicals after researchers put the e-cigarettes in a chamber and analysed the vapour. 46 candy flavours contained acetoin, 39 had traces of diacetyl and 23 had 2,3-pentanedione in them.
Joseph Allen led the study and revealed the chemicals are also found in some alcohol and fruit flavours, as well as butter-popcorn.
"Some 92 per cent of the flavoured e-cigarettes we tested had one of three flavouring chemicals we analysed for. These products are all available for purchase online," he explained.
"Since most of the health concerns about e-cigarettes have focused on nicotine, there is still much we do not know about e-cigarettes," study co-author David Christiani added.
"In addition to containing varying levels of the addictive substance nicotine, they also contain other cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, and as our study shows, flavouring chemicals that can cause lung damage."
Results were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.