Consumers are using e-cigarettes and vaporizers as a "safer" alternative to traditional cigarettes. However, in light of numerous unintentional and previously unknown health consequences, the current presumption that e-cigarettes and vape products are "safer" may be misguided, or flat out wrong.
At present, the chemicals which vape fluid ("vape juice") contain have health effects which are poorly understood, but which we are increasingly learning about. Recent tests performed by the FDA have determined that some e-cigarettes contain carcinogens and other harmful ingredients including diacetyl.
What Are the (Known) Unknown Health Risks of Vaping?
E-cigarette aerosol is not simply "harmless water vapor" as so many manufacturers, sellers, and vape enthusiasts portray it to be, according to the CDC.
In addition to nicotine (a toxin), e-cigarette aerosol can also contain heavy metals (which might lead to heavy metal toxicity), as well as known cancer causing agents (like acrolein), and produces ultrafine particulates that can be inhaled deep into the lungs and deposit themselves (which, if analogous to fine particulates in other contexts, might contribute to mutations and cancers).
Additionally E-cigarette aerosols also contain glycerin (or propylene glycol) and flavorings. Some e-cigarette manufacturers claim these ingredients are safe because they meet the FDA definition of "generally recognized as safe." However, GRAS status applies to ingestion of ingredients (i.e., in food), not inhalation. As such, the health effects of inhaling these "safe" substances are still unknown, and may in truth be unsafe or outright harmful.
In December 2015, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published a study showing a flavoring chemical linked to cases of "popcorn lung," diacetyl was found in more than 75% of flavored e-cigarettes and vape liquids. 2,3-Pentanedione and acetoin, also linked to respiratory diseases, were detected in 23 (45%) and 46 (90%) of the 51 flavors tested.
Uncovered Health Consequences of Vaping: "Popcorn Lung" and Related Respiratory Diseases
Initial studies showing the health effects of diacetyl and similar flavorings on respiratory systems were performed by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
In studying the effects of the chemical on workers in a factory making butter flavoring for popcorn, the NIOSH studies documented a relationship between cumulative exposure to diacetyl vapor over time and having abnormal lung function in the popcorn workers, contributing to the popular name of the respiratory disease: Popcorn Lung.
Additional studies have shown, in mice, inhaled exposure of diacetyl alone caused a pattern of injury that replicates obliterative bronchiolitis, the same condition found in the popcorn factory workers, as well as chemical workers in a Dutch plant that manufactured diacetyl developed the same type of lung disease as microwave popcorn workers.
2,3-pentanedione is noted to be similar to diacetyl, and so likely has similar effects, including "popcorn lung" like respiratory effects. Indeed a recent peer-reviewed study shows that inhalation exposure to 2,3-pentanedione causes airway damage that is similar to diacetyl.
Despite these numerous studies showing Diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione are chemicals with known risks to human health, e-cigarette manufacturers continue to include them in vape fluids without taking time to evaluate the costs to their customers.
As a result of unscrupulous manufacturing and marketing, exposing unwary users of e-cigs and vape products to these chemicals which are known to be dangerous to be inhaled, users run the risk of developing obliterative bronchiolitis, or similar conditions.
How Do We Protect Victims of Dangerous E-Cigarette Chemicals?
In addition to "popcorn lung" and other respiratory illnesses, it is likely that we will continue discover a number of previously unexpected health effects as a result of the chemicals in e-cigarette vapor.
But everyday consumers do not, and should not need to, carry a chemical toxicity chart in order to protect their health from the products which they put into their bodies.
Consumers should have confidence that the products which are marketed to them as "safe" are, actually, safe and not in truth full of chemicals with known health risks, and unknown long term effects.
But to achieve this goal, we must hold manufacturers accountable to testing for and understanding the health effects of the compounds they include in vape fluids, and more importantly for communicating those risks to their users - who cannot be expected to know of them on their own.
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E-cigarette and vape manufacturers' and sellers marketing has led users to believe that they were "safer" using their product, which in truth can lead to respiratory illness or other unintentional health effects.
Where these preventable illnesses are being inflicted on users of vapes and e-cigs, manufacturers and sellers should not be deterred from victimizing more unwary customers. Victims of popcorn lung, respiratory disease, or other unexpected negative health consequences e-cig and vape deserve to have manufacturers compensate them for their medical and health costs.
If you believe that you have been victim of popcorn lung, respiratory illness, or other unintended health consequences of vaping, don't hesitate to contact our office today for a free consultation. Reach us online.