E-Cigarettes Contain Even More Cancer-Causing Agents Than Previously Thought

The debate over whether or not e-cigarettes are safe has been raging since e-cigarettes and vaping first came on the scene. While one side — particularly the manufacturers of e-cigarettes — maintained that vaping was a safe alternative to smoking tobacco, government regulators and anti-smoking groups have worked hard to inform the public that e-cigarettes are, in fact, hazardous to your health, and may even be a gateway for young people towards tobacco products.

The debate over e-cigarettes continues to this very day, but now it seems that the scientific evidence is mounting against those that say that vaping is safe.

A new research study published in Environmental Science & Technology has just identified two chemicals in e-cigarettes that can cause cancer. Additionally, the study determined that the amounts of these two previously undetected chemicals vary widely between different brands of e-cigarettes.

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The research study took place at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The study utilized two kinds of electronic cigarettes and simulated vaping at multiple battery settings. The e-cigarettes’ vapor was collected and analyzed, and results were not good for e-cigarette users. The vapor was found to contain over 31 harmful chemicals including the two new cancer-causing ones. The Lawrence Berkeley e-cigarette study also discovered that the levels of the harmful chemicals varied based upon the temperature at which the liquid used in e-cigarettes was heated to in order to produce the vapor. Those e-cigarettes that heated their liquid to higher temperatures were found to give off more harmful chemicals than those that were heated at lower temperatures. Additionally, e-cigarettes that contained higher battery voltages also gave off higher doses of toxic chemicals. E-cigarettes with higher battery voltage heated the liquid in e-cigarettes to higher temperatures and thus gave off more harmful chemicals.

It is no revelation that e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals. The FDA released a warning in 2009 that certain brands of e-cigarettes contained a toxic chemical called diethylene glycol. Just last year, another research study determined that the vapor from e-cigarettes contained carcinogenic formaldehyde.

A co-author of the Berkeley Lab study, Hugo Destaillats, commented on what the findings of the e-cigarette study mean.

“Advocates of e-cigarettes say emissions are much lower than from conventional cigarettes, so you’re better off using e-cigarettes. I would say, that may be true for certain users — for example, long time smokers that cannot quit — but the problem is, it doesn’t mean that they’re healthy. Regular cigarettes are super unhealthy. E-cigarettes are just unhealthy.”

Another factor that contributed to the amount of toxic chemicals released by e-cigarettes, including the two newly discovered carcinogenic ones, was determined to be based on just how long e-cigarettes were used. The longer an e-cigarette is used, the higher the levels of chemicals the e-cigarette released. The reason for this, say the researchers, is that the longer an e-cigarette is used, the more chemical residue collects on the e-cigarette’s heating coil. When that chemical residue heats up, it releases even more dangerous chemicals into the vapor.

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The debate over the safety and use of e-cigarettes is stronger than ever primarily because the use of e-cigarettes in the United States has surged upwards in the past few years. The number of adults in the United States that use e-cigarettes rose from 3.3 percent in 2010 to 8.5 percent in 2013. Only two years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control, over one-fifth of all American adults said that they had at least tried e-cigarettes.

And so, the debate over e-cigarettes continues, though it seems that science and research is beginning to show both vapers and e-cigarette manufactures alike just how dangerous e-cigarettes are.

[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]