Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

What is in E-Cig Vapour?

Mar 08 2018 Read 1085 Times

From swirling clouds of silvery vapour to "good enough to eat" scents of apple and cherry, e-cigarettes have quickly made their mark. In the UK alone more than 2 million people have turned to e-cigarettes, which has pushed down the number of smokers to the lowest point since records began in 1974. Of course, e-cigarettes go hand-in-hand with plenty of controversy. Now, a new study suggests that e-cigarettes could be laden with toxic metals.

Scientists detect toxic metals

The study was carried out by scientists at Baltimore's John Hopkins University and suggests that the heating coils used to "light" e-cigarettes could contain potentially unsafe levels of toxic metals, including lead, arsenic, chromium, manganese and nickel. Regular inhalation coupled with long-term exposure has already been linked to a host of health issues concerning the lungs, liver, immune system, cardiovascular health and the brain. In some cases, they have even been known to cause certain types of cancer.

Calls for immediate action

Ana Maria Rule, senior author of the study warns that both health authorities and e-cigarette manufacturers need to take the study seriously, commenting "It's important for the FDA, the e-cigarette companies, and vapers themselves to know that these heating coils, as currently made, seem to be leaking toxic metals – which then get into the aerosols that vapers inhale". 

The study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives and drew on data sourced from 56 modifiable vaping devices available in the USA. They then tested each device for 15 toxic metals, with a focus on the e-cigarette coil, refilling dispenser and vapour itself.

Metal coils contaminating vapour

While the e-liquids alone were relatively safe, the team discovered alarmingly high levels of toxic metals after they'd been exposed to metallic heating coils. This suggests that the metals "leak" out of the coils and seep into the vapour, which is then inhaled by e-cigarette users. The next stage is to pinpoint exactly what the health effects of toxic metal exposure are, and whether vapers are at risk.

"We've established with this study that there are exposures to these metals, which is the first step, but we need also to determine the actual health effects,” said Rule.

The latest study only adds to the bundle of evidence suggesting that vaping may not be as harmless as originally thought.

Advanced laboratory equipment plays a central role in supporting new research. For a closer look at the latest solutions used to identify cyanocobalamin don't miss 'Using UV/VIS Spectroscopy for Different types of Vitamin B12 Analysis'.

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