The Chemicals E-Cigarette Manufacturers Don’t Want You to Know About

Apr 10, 2018
Paul M. da Costa

With the increasing popularity of electronic cigarettes (“e-cigs”) has come a dangerous cultural perception that they are somehow harmless to your health.  This perception is exacerbated by a significant marketing effort to promote e-cigs as a “safer” alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes.  A growing body of research suggests otherwise, however, including new studies finding that e-cigs can carry formaldehyde and diacetyl – chemicals known to be carcinogens. 

What is Formaldehyde?    

The Environment Protection Agency lists formaldehyde as a “probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure.”[1]  Although e-cig manufacturers do not deliberately include formaldehyde as an ingredient in its products, the carcinogen can be generated through the natural inhalation process when the glycerol used to help the nicotine and flavors flow through the device is exposed to battery heat.    

In one study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the amount of formaldehyde measured in e-cigs during normal inhalation conditions exceeded the “ceiling limit” of the workplace, a level that is absolutely prohibited by most industry standards.[2]

Diacetyl – the Convenient Flavoring Chemical

Unfortunately, formaldehyde is not the only danger of e-cigs to your health.  A study conducted by Dr. Joseph Allen, assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found diacetyl in over 75 percent of e-cigs tested.[3]  The inhalation of diacetyl, which is used for the various flavorings of e-cigs, is closely linked to what is known as popcorn lung disease – “a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways.”[4]  Popcorn lung, also known as constrictive bronchiolitis obliterations, is typically irreversible.  

The predominant symptoms linked to the inhalation of diacetyl include a “persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, phlegm production, fatigue, drowsiness, headache, fever, aches, and nausea.”  Further, lung volumes or chest X-rays may show hyperinflation, which occurs when air becomes severely trapped in the lungs, causing them to overinflate.[5]  

Youths are Particularly Targeted

Despite the negative health effects of diacetyl, however, e-cig manufacturers continue to use the chemical to produce new flavors in order to target the youth population.  Dr. Robert Jackler, chair of otolaryngology at Stanford, believes that such flavorants are not only dangerous, but are manufactured in part to target American youth.  Jackler says that the tobacco industry has used different flavors to attract young people.[6]  This reality is alarming because the health effects of e-cigs are exacerbated by prolonged exposure to the dangerous chemicals described above.    

What to do if You’ve Experienced Health Complications or Injuries from Use of E-cigarettes

If you or a loved one has suffered adverse health complications or injuries you believe are a result of e-cigarettes or vaping devices, please contact Paul M. da Costa, Esq. at Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLCCall us today at 973-274-5200.

[1] Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk /formaldehyde/formaldehyde-fact-sheet#q1

[2] Joseph G. Allen, The Formaldehyde in Your E-Cigs

[3] Id. 

[4] American Lung Association, Popcorn Lung: A Dangerous Risk of Flavored E-Cigarettes, /about-us/blog/2016/07/popcorn-lung-risk-ecigs.html  

[5] Steven Gilbert, Diacetyl