E-cigarettes: Study finds toxic metals including arsenic, lead in vapors

Toxic Metals Found in E-Cigarette Vapors

Vaping allows users to ingest nicotine and enjoy the look and feel of tobacco-smoking, but without the extreme health risks of cigarettes. It has come to light that e-cigarette vapours contain a significant amount of toxic metals, which can be unsafe.

Users of e-cigarettes may be inhaling levels of risky toxic metals, according to a study from Johns Hopkins University of Bloomberg School of Public Health. Chronic inhalation of these metals has been linked to lung, liver, immune, cardiovascular and brain damage, and even cancers.

The fact that minimal levels of metals were found in the e-liquids within the refilling dispensers, but levels 25 times higher were found in aerosols, led the researchers to believe the heating coils may increase the metal concentration. Vaping, the practice of inhaling this aerosol as if it were cigarette smoke, is now popular especially among teens, young adults and former smokers.

E-cigarette heating coils are normally made of nickel, chromium and a few other elements.

However, research shows that some e-cigarette flavors contain toxins that harm cells, and this new study adds to the existing evidence that vaping isn't entirely safe. However, among 10 users significant levels of arsenic were found in refill e-liquid, tanks and aerosol samples.

The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to regulate e-cigarettes and e-liquids.

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And while e-liquid might not carry unsafe metals on its own, the team found just under a fifth of the samples had significant levels of another highly toxic element: arsenic.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tested e-liquids in vapers' refilling dispensers from 56 Baltimore-area daily e-cigarette users for a study published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

In the aerosol samples, nearly 50 percent of them had lead concentrations higher than health-based limits defined by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The scientists in the study concluded that exposure to heavy metals was not a significant health concern for people switching from tobacco to vaping, but was an "unnecessary source of exposure" for people who never smoked before. They are a relatively new phenomenon and scientists are still learning about their long-term health effects.

"We don't know yet whether metals are chemically leaching from the coil or vaporizing when it's heated", Rule said.

E-cigarettes, typically, make use of a battery that supplies electric current to heat the metallic coil, which in turn heats up the surrounding nicotine-filled liquid (e-liquid).

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