Common e-cigarette flavors contain chemicals linked with severe respiratory disease


In a recent study, researchers find that Diacetyl (a flavoring chemical linked to cases of severe respiratory disease) is in more than 75% of flavored electronic cigarettes and refill liquids they tested.

Two other potentially harmful related compounds are also found in many of the tested flavors, which included varieties with potential appeal to young people such as Cotton Candy, Fruit Squirts, and Cupcake.

The study is published in Environmental Health Perspectives. Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health led the study.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the flavoring industry have warned workers about diacetyl.

Previous research has shown the association between inhaling this chemical and respiratory disease bronchiolitis obliterans, colloquially termed “Popcorn Lung”.

The disease first appeared in workers who inhaled artificial butter flavor in microwave popcorn processing facilities.

Currently there are more than 7,000 varieties of flavored e-cigarettes and e-juice (liquid containing nicotine that is used in refillable devices) on the market.

Although the popularity and use of e-cigarettes continues to increase, there is a lack of data on their potential health effects.

E-cigarettes are not currently regulated, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a proposed rule to include e-cigarettes under its authority to regulate certain tobacco and nicotine-containing products.

The researchers tested 51 types of flavored e-cigarettes and liquids sold by leading brands for the presence of diacetyl, acetoin, and 2,3-pentanedione.

They found that at least one of the three chemicals was detected in 47 of the 51 flavors.

Diacetyl was detected above the laboratory limit of detection in 39 of the flavors tested. Acetoin and 2,3-pentanedione were detected in 46 and 23 of the flavors, respectively.

The researchers suggest that most of the health concerns about e-cigarette have focused on nicotine. There is still much that people do not know about e-cigarette.

In addition to containing varying levels of the addictive substance nicotine, e-cigarettes also contain other cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, and as this study shows, flavoring chemicals that can cause lung damage.

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Citation: Allen JG, et al. (2015). Flavoring Chemicals in E-Cigarettes: Diacetyl, 2,3-Pentanedione, and Acetoin in a Sample of 51 1 Products, Including Fruit-, Candy-, and Cocktail-Flavored E-Cigarettes. Environmental Health Perspectives, published online. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1510185.
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.