Vaping is at the center of the controversy, but more and more negative consequences are known in its use as harmful, or equal, than those of traditional smoking. According to a new study by specialists from Johns Hopkins University, This smorgasbord of chemicals not reported by manufacturers includes industrial products and caffeine, just to name a few.
Many previous studies have attempted to analyze the content of e-cigarettes, but this is the first to use an advanced fingerprint technique capable of identifying chemicals in both food and wastewater. The researchers concluded that the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes remain largely a mystery. In other words, users should at least be aware that they are potentially exposing themselves to harmful substances.
“Existing research comparing e-cigarettes with tobacco found that tobacco contaminants are much lower in e-cigarettes. The problem is that e-cigarette aerosols contain other uncharacterized chemicals that could have health risks that we don’t yet know about. explained the study’s lead author Carsten Prasse, an assistant professor of health and environmental engineering at Johns Hopkins. More and more young people use these electronic cigarettes and need to know what they are exposed to”.
Previous research on e-cigarettes has focused on identifying the same dangerous chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes. This time, however, the study authors did a much broader tracing of the chemical network.
The chemical fingerprinting technique used for this work is based on liquid chromatography or high-resolution mass spectrometry. This approach has never been used in vaporizer samples before and is typically used to look for organic compounds in wastewater, food, and blood.
Four popular vaping products were tested: Mi-Salt, Vuse, Juul, and Blu. Vaporizers and e-cigarettes are marketed in a variety of flavors, but the researchers only focused on the tobacco-flavored liquid.
Thousands of unknown chemicals were found and even more, compounds were seen in aerosols. In particular, hydrocarbon-like compounds were found that generally only appear after combustion, something that e-cigarette manufacturers claim does not occur during vaping. The hydrocarbon compounds produced by smoking a normal cigarette are considered toxic.
“One of the main strategies with which electronic cigarettes have been commercialized is that they work at temperatures below combustion, which would make them safer than traditional smoking,” said the study’s lead author, Mina Tehrani, a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health – “Our study shows that this new approach to fingerprinting can be applied to assess whether combustion-like processes are taking place”.
The specialists revealed that about 2,000 chemicals were found, most of them unidentified. Among the small portion, the researchers were able to identify, he determined that six were potentially harmful, including three chemicals never before found in e-cigarettes. The study authors said they were quite surprised to see caffeine in two of the four brands tested. “That could give smokers an undisclosed extra harm,” Tehrani speculated. “We wonder if it is being added intentionally”.
Other identified chemicals include three of the industrial variety. One of them is a pesticide, while the other two are flavorings associated with potentially toxic side effects and respiratory irritation. Professor Prasse was particularly motivated to do this research after speaking with a cousin who had recently stopped smoking regular cigarettes in favor of supposedly healthier electronic ones.
“People just need to know that they are inhaling a very complex mixture of chemicals when they vape. And many of these compounds have no idea what they really are,” he explained. “I do not agree with the way that vaping is marketed under the idea that it is healthier than smoking cigarettes. In my opinion, we are just not at the point where we can really say that.”
While it may still be true that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to regular tobacco products, researchers note that many young people today never smoked cigarettes. In such scenarios, e-cigarettes are an unhealthy habit, not the lesser of the two health hazards.
“There are millions of middle and high school students who vape who would not otherwise think about smoking tobacco,” concluded study co-author Ana M. Rule, an expert on exposure to metals from vaping at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. For them there is no risk reduction, what appears is a new risk in their lives”.