When vaping first gained popularity, proponents quickly asserted that it was a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. According to Bloomberg’s Tiffany Kary, a new study reveals it may be a myth.
According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), vaping aerosols contain thousands of unknown compounds and substances that manufacturers do not disclose, including industrial chemicals and caffeine. Chemical Research in Toxicology, a peer-reviewed publication published by the American Chemical Society, published their work.
“Existing research that compared e-cigarettes with normal cigarettes found that cigarette contaminants are much lower in e-cigarettes,” senior author Carsten Prasse, an assistant professor of environmental health and engineering at the Whiting School of Engineering and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says in a statement.
“The problem is that e-cigarette aerosols contain other completely uncharacterized chemicals that might have health risks that we don’t yet know about,” Prasse adds. “More and more young people are using these e-cigarettes, and they need to know what they’re being exposed to.”
Nearly 2,000 unknown compounds were detected in electronic cigarette vaping liquid and aerosols, according to the study. Additionally, scientists found many known and potentially dangerous substances, according to New Atlas’s Richard Haridy.
Australian researchers discovered similar findings in a recent analysis of 65 vape liquids. According to New Atlas, each sample included at least one potentially dangerous substance, including benzaldehyde, an irritant to the respiratory system, and trans-cinnamaldehyde, an immunosuppressive agent.
Additionally, they identified tiny quantities of nicotine in six samples, despite the items’ claims to be nicotine-free.
“People just need to know that they’re inhaling a very complex mixture of chemicals when they vape,” Prasse says in the JHU statement. “And for a lot of these compounds, we have no idea what they actually are.”
The JHU study examined four popular tobacco vaporizer flavors and the aerosols used in four different e-cigarette devices, including a tank, a disposable unit, and two pods. The hundreds of unknown chemicals detected molecules associated with respiratory difficulties, a pesticide, industrial chemicals, and caffeine, a known addictive drug.
“That might be giving smokers an extra kick that is not disclosed,” lead author Mina Tehrani, a postdoctoral fellow at the JHU School of Public Health, says in the statement. “We wonder if they are adding it intentionally.”
Ana M. Rule, a co-author of the study and an expert on metals exposure from vape use at Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, is worried about the impact on young people who take up vaping in the mistaken belief that they are making a healthy alternative.
“There are millions of middle school and high school students vaping that would not otherwise think of smoking,” Rule says. “For them, there is no risk reduction, only increased risk.”