E-cigarette flavours linked to lung disease

By Drum Digital
15 December 2015

E-cigarettes are often recommended as an alternative to tobacco, but a new study has discovered many of the most common flavours contain chemicals which could lead to an incurable lung condition.

Scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health looked into 51 different types of flavoured e-cigarettes, including a cotton candy option, sold by leading brands. Each were tested for the chemicals diacetyl, acetoin and 2,3-pentanedione, which are deemed 'high priority' in posing a respiratory risk. Diacetyl has previously been linked to the disorder bronchiolitis obliterans, 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.

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. Source: © Cover Media

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