In case you missed it: Popcorn kerfuffle resurfaces with new bogus study based on flawed data

Every few months, the overwhelmingly debunked conspiracy theory alleging that vaping causes a medical condition called popcorn lung rears its ugly head yet again.  In a newly published paper by none other than scientists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, lead authors Joseph Allen and Quan Lu make the erroneous assertion that approximately 90 percent of e-liquids currently on the market contain flavorings which lead to this particular ailment.

The paper entitled Transcriptomic response of primary human airway epithelial cells to flavoring chemicals in electronic cigarettes (Nature) is based on data complied way back in 2013, ancient times in the world of vaping innovation.   In fact, the co-authors’ data is acquired through the evaluation of thirteen different cigalike devices from 2013 and another four such devices from 2015.

Related Article:  Expert lambasts research claiming vaping causes COPD as pure ‘science fiction’

This is pathetically absurd simply because everyone knows that most daily vapers trying to quit smoking rarely use cigalikes these days.  It’s antiquated technology, pure and simple. However, the Harvard researchers’ attempt to mask these abominable oversights by hiding behind a rather scientific-sounding experimentation process involving human bronchial epithelial cells. 

The trouble with the Harvard vaping study

The researchers began by exposing the cells to the controversial ingredient diacetyl along with acetyl propionyl, both of which has already been largely self-regulated out of the vaping industry worldwide.  After soaking the cells in a solution laced with diacetyl for 24-hours, the lung cells essentially died.  The Harvard team then comes to the mysterious conclusion that vaping flavored e-liquids with this ingredient is also potentially lethal to lung cells, as well. 

How any reputable scientist would have the audacity to equate the soaking of lung cells in toxic diacetyl-infused e-liquid to the vaping of e-liquids containing significantly smaller proportions of the same ingredient is beyond credibility. 

Related Article:  Vaping expert Farsalinos blasts American Heart Association for ‘bizarre’ research

Furthermore, as stated previously, the global vaping industry has already resolved this issue largely of its own accord.  In 2014, the highly accredited Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos discovered trace amounts of diacetyl in some vape juices on the market at the time.  The industry immediately sprung into action to rid store shelves of offending products. 

However, Farsalinos also pointed out that the levels of diacetyl found in the contaminated e-liquids were so small that the chances of contracting popcorn lung were about one in a thousand.  Furthermore, as the Harvard conveniently paper fails to mention, combustible tobacco products do indeed contain significantly and measurably higher levels of both diacetyl and acetyl propionyl compared to even the most diacetyl-laced e-liquids from 2014.

Numerous REPUTABLE scientists debunk the popcorn lung myth

In mid-2018, Dr. Michael Seigel of the Boston University School of Public Health discovered a vaping study conducted by the California Department of Health (CaDOH) which also refutes these outlandish claims surrounding vaping and popcorn lung.   During inspections of several California vape shops by CaDOH officials, air samplings and other data were collected and analyzed for increased levels of diacetyl, acetone, acetoin, numerous aldehydes, toluene, benzene, and xylene.  None were detected, which led Dr. Seigel to issue the following statement

“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.”

The organization Public Health England also weighed in on the popcorn lung controversy.  This UK agency is the very same one which made the revolutionary discovery back in 2015 that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking. Regarding the debate about popcorn lung, Public Health England writes.

“One of the most commonly held concerns is that e-cigarettes might cause ‘popcorn lung’. This came about because some flavourings used in e-liquids to provide a buttery flavour contain the chemical diacetyl, which at very high levels of exposure has been associated with the serious lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans.”
“However, diacetyl is banned as an ingredient from e-cigarettes and e-liquids in the UK. It had been detected in some e-liquid flavourings in the past, but at levels hundreds of times lower than in cigarette smoke. Even at these levels, smoking is not a major risk factor for this rare disease.”

The jury is in, and the verdict is that the Harvard report is utterly bogus.  It’s based on critically suspicious experimentation practices and grossly outdated e-liquids, vaping devices, and associated data.  Yet, somehow, the article seemed to go viral across social media yet again.

When will this ridiculous conspiracy theory finally end? Look for another similar story to resurface in about 90-days. 

Related Article:  California DOH exposes ‘popcorn lung’ vaping theory as hoax

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published