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New study shows arsenic levels in e-cig vapor fall ‘below the detection limit’

There has been great debate in recent years over the comparative toxicity levels of e-cig vapor to cigarette smoke, and a recent study out of Tennessee attempts to address the issue head-on.  Spokespeople for such notable public health agencies as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) routinely demonize vaping to the American people.  So, Dr. Dominic L. Palazzolo and his scientific team from Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) in Harrogate decided to conduct their own research.

A common practice of certain anti-vaping organizations is to promote various myths and misconceptions regarding e-cig vapor being filled with enormous levels of metallic toxins.  One story that went viral in 2016 falsely claimed that e-cig vapor is filled with enormous amounts of formaldehyde.  Another fake news report claimed that the e-cig vapor is laced with the deadly chemical arsenic.  According to Palazzolo’s research, neither is factually accurate.

Overview of LMU vaping study

The scientists from LMU began their study by measuring for trace levels of some nine different toxins, including Arsenic, Aluminum, Lead, Zinc, Manganese, Nickel, Iron, Copper, and Cadmium.  The measurements were obtained from both the smoke produced by a Marlboro cigarette and the e-cig vapor from a tobacco-flavored e-liquid.  The Marlboros were even purchased from a local convenience store, just to ensure that there was no funny business.

The e-liquid liquid consisted of 80% Propylene Glycol and 20% Vegetable Glycerin, which is also very common.  Furthermore, it also contained “very high nicotine” concentrations of 7mg/ml and was heated to a very typical 350 degrees Celsius.  Previous anti-vaping research has often increased the heating temperatures to over 800 degrees, which is incredibly unrealistic for the daily vaping habits of the typical vaper. 


What the LMU scientists discovered is that the Marlboro cigarette smoke measured enormously high in metallic toxicities while the e-cig vapor measurements were essentially negligible – falling “below the detection limit” of the study.

"The concentrations of Al, As, Cd, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn in E-liquid (μg/L) and in the tobacco and paper of Marlboro cigarettes (μg/g) along with their contents (μg) based on 15 puffs (140 μL of E-liquid) of the ECIG device or 15 puffs of a cigarette...With the exception of As, these results indicate that the content of all trace metals, on a per cigarette basis, are at least an order of magnitude higher in the tobacco and paper of a cigarette as compared to the E-liquid. Although, the content of As in the E-liquid is quite low, the As in the tobacco and paper is below the detection limit."

Dr. Dominic L. Palazzolo and his team also make clear in the published findings that smokers and vapers were each sent to different rooms to avoid cross-contamination.   They even document the precise scientific equipment used to measure the cigarette smoke and e-cig vapor for the related metallic toxins – something called a Thermo Scientific Hamilton SafeAire II.   This e-cig study is a definite must-read.

The LMU vaping study is entitled Trace Metals Derived from Electronic Cigarette (ECIG) Generated Aerosol: Potential Problem of ECIG Devices That Contain Nickel and is readily available on the Frontiers in Physiology website. 


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