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More benzene found in every day air than in e-cig vapor, says new PSU study

A new study recently released by scientists from Portland State University (PSU) refutes the controversial argument that e-cig vapor may contain alarmingly high levels of benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer.  Reminiscent of the days when the FDA, the CDC, and several other anti-vaping organizations would spread false rumors of formaldehyde-inducing vaping devices, the PSU researchers attempt to make a similar deadly connection.  However, their scientific conclusions ultimately prove the opposite point of view.

Published on March 8 in the online medical journal PLOS, the study is entitled “Benzene formation I  electronic cigarettes.”  Almost simultaneously, the PSU scientists also published a press release claiming that e-cig vapor does indeed produce higher levels of cancer-causing benzene.  To be clear, the results of the PSU study prove the exact opposite.

PSU benzene study manipulates heating temps

The basis of the study involves the measuring for trace amounts of benzene via e-cig vapor produced at a rate of 5-second puffs.  The “5-second puffs” criterion is crucial to the scientific accuracy of the study because this is the typical length of an average vape, 5-seconds or shorter.

However, the trouble begins when the PSU scientists decide to toy with the heating temperatures of the e-liquids in an attempt to manipulate the resulting data to conform to their pre-determine conclusions that e-cig vapor is filled with cancer-causing benzene.  In doing so, the scientists found the following conclusions:

      • Using e-liquids of 6 percent nicotine vaped at a recommended heating temperature of 6 W, the levels of benzene found in the resulting vapor were non-detectable.
      • When they turned up the heat to 13 W, the scientist found up to 24 μg/g of the chemical. The problem is that vaping at such extreme temperatures would likely never occur because 13 W would almost always produce excruciating dry hits.


Of course, the press release attempts to clarify the discrepancies by stating, “The power levels used in the study were still far below those accessible to users on some devices, which can exceed 200 watts”.  But this sort of blanket statement is intentionally misleading.

It’s tantamount to the Ford Company claiming, “We conducted a crash test of the new Nissan Sentra.  When driven at speeds of 150 miles per hour and crashed into a brick wall, everyone will die.“  Sure, a Nissan Sentra might be able to be driven at such high speeds, but no one in their right mind would ever actually do it!

Many in the medical community are taking issue with the latest PSU study.  Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos from the University of Patras in Greece contends that more benzene is found in normal, everyday air than in the e-cig vapor as defined in the conclusions of this study. 

“The authors calculated the concentration of benzene in inhaled air, and report levels up to 5000 μg/m3 air (at dry puffs of course). Compared to the ambient levels of 1 μg/m3 of benzene, everyone would think that this is a disaster.”
“But not really, this methodology suffers from a major problem. Humans take about 12 breaths per minute, i.e. 17,000 (thousand) breaths per 24 h. The volume of air inhaled in 24 h is 20 m3. So, the daily exposure to benzene from ambient air is 20 μg. Even if you assume that Subtank at 25 W with 5-second puffs represent realistic conditions (they are not), you need to consume 105 mL e-liquid per day in order to be exposed to the same levels of benzene as breathing ambient air. For the EVOD under normal vaping conditions, you need to vape 125 mL e-liquid per day.”

Luckily, the American vaping industry has a team of expert scientists of their own who have the amazing ability to dig deep into these types of research studies to identify and clarify the often indiscernible ‘fine print.”   While the PSU scientists issued a press release that attempts to demonize e-cig vapor as something that is filled with cancer-causing benzene, scientists like Dr. Farsalinos uncover the real truth:  E-cig vapor contains less benzene that every day air. 


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