As the world continues to debate the health effects of vaping and e-cigs, many might be surprised to learn that Time Magazine ran a news story about vaporized propylene glycol way back in 1942. With then General Dwight D. Eisenhower on the cover, the article highlights the work of a scientist from the University of Chicago. Over seventy-five years ago, Dr. Oswald Hope Robertson was able to successfully determine that the non-toxic substance is useful in killing germs that cause influenza and pneumonia.
To test this theory, Dr. Robertson and his team placed two groups of mice into separate chambers. Into one chamber, they pumped vaporized propylene glycol along with a healthy dose of the flu virus. In the second, they sprayed the flu virus alone. To their amazement, each of the mice located in the chamber infused with propylene glycol survived while their counterparts in the second chamber did not.
Strangely, Robertson claims that he got the initial idea of propylene glycol as a germicide from the London Fires of 1666 where townspeople lit countless fires to purge the air of germs thought to cause The Plague. Experimentation continued among the scientific community for hundreds of years using different variations of vaporized chemicals.
The only trouble was that most of their choices simply smelled awful. Propylene glycol, on the other hand, is completely odorless. And unlike most of the other attempted chemicals, propylene glycol is also non-toxic when inhaled, swallowed, or even injected into the veins.
Robertson and Puck: Historic research with propylene glycol
Dr. Oswald Hope Robertson was so excited about his mice experiment that he later went on to tests involving monkeys. And just like the first trial, the monkeys both survived and thrived in their new environment of vaporized propylene glycol.
He also tried vaporized triethylene glycol, but this substance produced some rather concerning side effects. The monkeys gained more weight than was healthy and experienced some drying around the facial skin, among other issues.
Meanwhile, another scientist by the name of Theodore Puck was also conducting similar research. Puck determined that vaporized propylene glycol kills the airborne bacteria of pneumococci, streptococci, and staphylococci which can lead to such illnesses as strep throat, impetigo, food poisoning, cellulitis, and many others. Puck’s work from 1945 is still published online via the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes Health (NLB-NIH).
While today’s scientific community is still debating the long-term health benefits of vaping, one thing is clear. More research is needed by reliable, unbiased, and reputable scientists. Junk science be damned, perhaps we should start from the very beginning by once again reading the research of such forward-thinking scientific leaders like Puck and Robertson.
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