E-cigarettes are linked to lung disease

E-cigarettes are linked to lung disease

We have all heard before how detrimental smoking is to our health. Years of research have shown that cigarettes are one of the most dangerous products that humans consume, if not the most dangerous.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or smoke exposure, and around 8.6 million suffer from serious smoke-related diseases.

With all the attention focused on cigarettes, other products and substitutions have slipped through the cracks. One product in particular is becoming increasingly popular: E-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes use atomizers to create a vapor by heating up artificial juices and flavorings. Because there is no smoke, just vapor, people have assumed that they are safe.

However, new research from Harvard shows that e-cigarettes are linked to lung disease.

A common chemical in e-cigarette flavorings called diacetyl was linked to severe respiratory disease by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers.

Popcorn lung was a condition first found in popcorn factories where workers would inhale fumes from artificial butter flavorings and would develop the respiratory disease bronchiolitis obliterans.

Recognition of the hazards associated with inhaling flavoring chemicals started with ‘popcorn lung’ over a decade ago. However, diacetyl and other related flavoring chemicals are used in many other flavors beyond butter-flavored popcorn, including fruit flavors, alcohol flavors, and, we learned in our study, candy-flavored e-cigarettes,” said lead author Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment sciences.

As written in the study abstract:

We selected 51 types of flavored e-cigarettes sold by leading e-cigarette brands and flavors we deemed were appealing to youth. E-cigarette contents were fully discharged and the air stream was captured and analyzed for total mass of diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, and acetoin, according to OSHA Method 1012. At least one flavoring chemical was detected in 47 of 51 unique flavors tested. Diacetyl was detected above the laboratory limit of detection 39 of the 51 flavors tested, ranging from < limit of qualification (LOQ) to 239 μg/e-cigarette. 2,3-pentanedione and acetoin were detected in 23 and 46 of the 51 flavors tested at concentrations up to 64 and 529 μg/e-cigarette, respectively.

Since most of the health concerns about e-cigarettes have focused on nicotine, there is still much we do not know about e-cigarettes. 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,” said study co-author David Christiani, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics.

The study showing that e-cigarettes are linked to lung disease was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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1. “Chemical Flavorings Found in E-cigarettes Linked to Lung Disease.” Harvard Gazette. Harvard Gazette, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
2. “Flavoring Chemicals in E-Cigarettes: Diacetyl, 2,3-Pentanedione, and Acetoin in a Sample of 51 Products, Including Fruit-, Candy-, and Cocktail-Flavored E-Cigarettes.” EHP. EHP, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

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