Some flavored electronic cigarettes may contain a chemical flavoring linked with a severe lung disease. The chemical, diacetyl, was found in over 75 percent of flavored e-cigs and refill liquids tested by Harvard researchers, along with two other compounds that are potentially harmful to human health. The chemicals were found in many sweet-tasting flavors, such as cotton candy, "Fruit Squirts," and cupcake.
Diacetyl is a chemical additive that's sometimes added to foods give them a buttery flavor. Inhaling the substance has been associated with a severe respiratory condition known as bronchiolitis obliterans, in which the tiny airways in the lungs called bronchioles get inflamed and are then obstructed. Bronchiolitis obliterans is also referred to as "popcorn lung," after numerous workers at microwave popcorn plants inhaled the artificial butter flavorings and came down with the disease.
The chemicals were found in flavors such as cotton candy and "Fruit Squirts"
The Harvard researchers looked for the presence of diacetyl in 51 different e-cigarette flavors, as well as two other flavoring chemicals, acetoin, and 2,3-pentanedione. These compounds are often used alongside diacetyl, and may also be hazardous to respiratory health. To single out these chemicals, the researchers put the flavored e-cigarettes into a chamber and drew air out of them for eight seconds a time. The air stream was then analyzed for its chemical components. Of the 51 flavors tested, 47 contained one of the three chemicals the researchers were looking for.
Granted, there are thousands of different e-cigarette flavors on the market, so 51 flavors is a small sample size. However, other harmful chemicals beside diacetyl have been found in e-cigarette liquids before, and it's possible that e-cigarette vapor could damage the immune system. This latest research adds to the mounting evidence that e-cigarettes may not be that much safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. Because of these potential health issues, the US Food and Administration has proposed to regulate e-cigarettes as it does other tobacco and nicotine-containing products.
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