CDC study disproves claims that e-cig vapor is laced with formaldehyde

CDC study disproves claims that e-cig vapor is laced with formaldehyde

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published the results of an air sampling study which officially debunks former claims that e-cig vapor is laced with deadly levels of formaldehyde.  The rumor seems to have gotten its start from a controversial 2015 publication in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

The 2015 report was not peer-reviewed prior to publication, but many leading scientists immediately refuted both the study’s findings and its scientific methodologies immediately upon release.  Several even contacted the NEJM to demand a retraction.  However, the original document still appears online even today.  This latest CDC analysis only further confirms that the original NEJM report is bogus, but it may be too late to have much of a positive effect on the general public’s current attitudes towards vaping.

Overview of the CDC air quality study

The CDC study involved the air sampling of a local vape shop to measure and evaluate the toxicity levels of several “vaping related chemicals.”  In coordination with representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the vape shops owner voluntarily granted CDC scientists access to the businesses.  As the air sampling tests were being conducted, both employees and customers were actively vaping within the shop, as well.  The related findings are compiled in the report entitled Evaluation of Chemical Exposures at a Vape Shop, which is readily available on the CDC website. 

  • The “vaping related chemicals” evaluated include:
    • Formaldehyde
    • Nicotine
    • Diacetyl
    • Propylene glycol
    • 2,3-Hexanedione
    • 2,3-Pentanedione
    • Acetaldehyde
    • Acetoin
    • Serval types of Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs)
  • In addition to testing the air quality of the customer service area of the shop, CDC officials also evaluated the storage and safety measures being taken by employees and staff.
  • Back-of-the-shop “commonly touched surfaces” were also evaluated for the related toxins.
  • On two separate occasions and at different times of day, individual employees also agreed to allow CDC officials to collect swipe samples of their hands and fingers.
  • As many as ten employees were present at the time of the air sampling tests.


According to the CDC’s published findings, the measurable concentrations of the associated toxins, aldehyde, VOCs, and other vaping related chemicals fell far below national safety stands as defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  Regarding formaldehyde specifically, the CDC essentially states that even in a vape shop with ten vaping employees, the measurable levels are no more than that of everyday air.

“Area sampling results showed that background formaldehyde concentrations were similar to the personal sampling results. Low concentrations of formaldehyde exist in many indoor environments because of off gassing from furnishings, clothing, and other materials.”

To be fair, the CDC team did find some faulty safety practices by the vape shop employees, but nothing too catastrophic.  For example, evidence was discovered that staffers were storing liquid nicotine extract in the same refrigeration unit as staff food items.  Several employees were also witnessed handing vaping related products without the proper safety protocols (gloves, disposable funnels), and there were documented cases of subpar ventilation systems. 


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints, policy or company position of, the rest of our staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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Vaper - April 10, 2018

Overheating devices/burning cotton really helps in research!

Jay Forester - April 8, 2018

Did you read the article Robert? Your comment doesn’t make sense. People like you, reading titles and bits and pieces of articles, without also validating the articles contwnts, is what helps spread misinformation.

robert innes - April 7, 2018

So ten vapers PLUS faulty / poor ventilation…. Says it all really.

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