The Not So Healthy Toxins Produced by E-Cigarettes

The results could help consumers make better decisions about the products they buy.   (Image: via   pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
The results could help consumers make better decisions about the products they buy. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The flavor of an e-cigarette may affect more than a consumer’s taste buds, according to Penn State researchers, who say the chemicals that make up different flavors also produce different levels of free radicals, toxins often associated with cancer and other diseases.

The researchers analyzed popular e-cigarette flavors and the amount of free radicals they produced, and found that many of the chemicals used to flavor e-cigarettes increased the production of free radicals, while a few actually lowered it.

John Richie, professor of public health sciences and pharmacology, Penn State College of Medicine, said the results are an important step in learning more about the potential dangers of e-cigarettes, he explains:

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to healthy cells, and have been linked to conditions like inflammation, heart disease, and cancer. Consumers inhale these free radicals when they smoke a combustible cigarette.

While e-cigarettes do not give off smoke, they do contain many different chemicals to flavor the e-liquids, which are absent from traditional, or “combustible,” cigarettes. The researchers said that while the flavorings are approved for consumption, they aren’t evaluated for safety when heated:

The researchers measured the free radicals produced by 50 flavors of a popular brand of e-cigarette and compared them to flavorless e-liquid. They found that about 43 percent of the flavors were associated with significantly higher levels of free radical production, while a few were associated with lower levels.

Next, the researchers broke down the flavors into their individual chemicals to see which ones were associated with higher levels of free radicals. Zachary Bitzer, post-doctoral scholar, said isolating the chemicals was important because flavors are not consistent across brands:

The researchers found six flavorants that significantly increased the production of free radicals. These flavorants included linalool, dipentene, and citral, which are often used to give products citrus or floral notes. Additionally, the flavorant ethyl vanillin — often used for vanilla notes — decreased the production of free radicals by 42 percent.

Richie said the results — recently published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine — could help consumers make better decisions about the products they buy, as well as help policy makers create regulations around e-cigarettes in the future:

Provided by: Pennsylvania State University [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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