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Chemicals associated with ‘popcorn lung’ in e-cigs non-detectable, says study

Vaping is often the target of numerous conspiracy theories, from accusations that it leads to popcorn lung, formaldehyde poisoning, and increased toxicities involving second-hand vapor.  But a study released earlier this year by the California Department of Public Health seemingly debunks each of these common misconceptions single-handedly. 

The researchers began by evaluating the air quality of a local vape shop with the initial objective of determining the possible negative health effects of secondhand vapor.  They monitored the indoor air quality while measuring for several toxins and carcinogens, and while trace levels of formaldehyde were indeed detected, the associated levels were found to be no more than normal, room air.

Dr. Siegel on the California e-cigs study

The only other measurable chemicals identified were those associated with non-toxic ethanol (alcohol) and isopropyl alcohol.  And the research team was looking for just about every toxin imaginable, including but not limited to the following.

  • Acetone:  Non-detectable
  • Acetoin: Non-detectable
  • Benzene: Non-detectable
  • Chloroform:  Non-detectable
  • Multiple aldehydes: Non-detectable
  • Toluene: Non-detectable
  • Xylene: Non-detectable

Perhaps even more noteworthy, the tests were conducted in a California vape shop filled with approximately 13 customers and several employees, each of whom were vaping intermittently at the time.  And as Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University of Public Health points out in his blog, “There was no active ventilation system, and visible clouds of vapor were visible at times.” To say that the air quality testing procedures took place under rather severe conditions would be an understatement, since most non-vapers would rarely find themselves in such a “cloudy” situation.

“This study, although conducted under very high exposure conditions in a small, non-ventilated vape shop with many employees and customers vaping and clouds of vapor visible, did not document any dangerous levels of exposure to any hazardous chemical. Nicotine exposure was essentially non-existent. Formaldehyde exposure was no different than in many indoor and outdoor environments at baseline. Acetone, acetoin, other aldehydes, toluene, benzene, and xylene were not detected. Chemicals that have been associated with "popcorn lung" were also not detected by the standard method.”

“This study adds to the evidence that under real-life conditions, ‘secondhand vaping’ does not appear to pose any significant health risks.”

Dr. Siegel goes on to question the validity of government institutions imposing vaping bans in public places, either indoors or outdoors, based on the findings of the California study.  While Siegel is often a vocal advocate of vaping, he has spent years of his professional life publicly denouncing smoking in restaurants, bars, and workplace environments.  For such a reputable, anti-tobacco, medical professional to take such an aggressive, pro-vaping stance should not go unnoticed by publish health organizations.    



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