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Vaporized propylene glycol kills airborne bacteria, say scientists

Posted by Matt Rowland on

Scientists now know that the primary ingredient of propylene glycol used in most e-liquids of vaping technology is a known antibacterial agent.  When vaporized to temperatures as low as 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it kills some of the more common, illness-causing bacteria including pneumococci, streptococci, and staphylococci.  Strangely, this research is not entirely recent.  In fact, scientists have known about the health benefits of vaporized propylene glycol for decades.

As far back as the 1940s, a scientist by the name of Theodore Puck published several research papers on the subject.  Puck, who died in 2005, was an American geneticist with a world-class reputation.  In fact, upon his passing at the age of 89, the New York Times ran a news report which highlighted many of Puck’s contributions to the scientific community.  Puck was no fly-by-night, pay-for-play scientist.  He was the real deal.

The Theodore Puck research on vaporized propylene glycol

The bacteria of pneumococci, streptococci, and staphylococci are known agents that can lead to such common ailments as strep throat, impetigo, food poisoning, meningitis, and of course, pneumonia, just to name a few.   In his early years as an aspiring scientist, Dr. Puck discovered that the massive burnings which took place in Europe in the final days of the Black Plague essentially coincided with the rapid decline in new outbreaks. 

He considered whether the vaporized clouds of smoke contributed to the decline. He took his theory to a new level by beginning to focus on intentionally vaporized propylene glycol as an antibacterial.


One of his most famous studies entitled The Bactericidal action of propylene glycol vapor on microorganisms suspended in air is still published on the NLB-NIH website for the entire world to reference.  Yet, anti-vaping activists tend to ignore such relevant, decades-old research for some reason.

“The observations here reported add further support to the previously proposed conception of the mechanism of the lethal action of propylene glycol vapor, namely, that a bactericidal concentration of the glycol accumulates in the bacterial droplet as a result of contact with and absorption of glycol molecules from the surrounding atmosphere.”
“Pneumococci were killed by amounts of propylene glycol as low as 1 gm. in 20 million cc. of air. Concentrations of 1 to 5 million to 1 to 10 million were required to produce the same degree of killing of streptococci and staphylococci.”

Many vaping enthusiasts are often surprised when they learn of this 1940s research.  And while the Puck studies are not 100% conclusive that the vaping of propylene glycol-infused e-liquids does not come with a small amount of possible health risks, it does support the theory that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking.

The Public Health England agency in the UK (similar to the U.S. agency, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the CDC) also supports these claims.  In 2015, the UK organization published a report claiming that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking.  The report was then endorsed by the UK College of Physicians and other federal government agencies of public health around the world, as well.    


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