A recent U.S. study has found that chemicals in electronic cigarettes pose no health concerns for users or bystanders, according to a press note from the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) released through PRNewswire.
The study, by professor Igor Burstyn, of the Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is said to be the first definitive study of electronic cigarette chemistry.
It found that there are no health concerns based on generally accepted exposure limits.
“By reviewing over 9,000 observations about the chemistry of the vapor and the liquid in e-cigarettes, Dr. Burstyn was able to determine that the levels of contaminants e-cigarette users are exposed to are insignificant, far below levels that would pose any health risk,” the press note said. “Additionally, there is no health risk to bystanders. Proposals to ban e-cigarettes in places where smoking is banned have been based on concern there is a potential risk to bystanders, but the study shows there is no concern.”
This was the first study funded by the CASAA Research Fund. CASAA describes itself as the leading consumer advocacy group promoting the availability and use of low-risk alternatives to smoking. It is an all-volunteer, donation-funded organization.
In commenting on the study, CASAA President Elaine Keller, said that, over the years, there had been a lot of small studies of electronic cigarette liquid and vapor, but those studies were either ignored or misinterpreted. “Those that showed even the slightest contamination were used for propaganda by those who object to e-cigarettes because they look like smoking,” she said. “We realized that an expert review was needed to give an unbiased explanation of the available scientific evidence for our membership and policy makers. We reached out to our membership and they enthusiastically donated to make it possible.”
Meanwhile, CASAA’s scientific director, Carl V. Phillips, said it had always been clear that using electronic cigarettes posed a much lower risk than did smoking, but that there had been uncertainty about whether continuing to inhale a mix of chemicals posed a measurable risk. “Even those of us who have long encouraged smokers to switch are a bit surprised that even the worst-case-scenario risks are so low,” he said. “This study assures us that e-cigarettes are as low risk as other smoke-free tobacco and nicotine products, like smokeless tobacco and NRT. All of these products are about 99 percent less harmful than smoking, and so smokers who switch to them gain basically the same health benefits as if they quit tobacco and nicotine entirely.”
Phillips said that there had been a call for “regulatory science” by the FDA. “This is exactly the type of science that is needed to make good regulation and informed individual decisions: it summarizes all of the available knowledge and puts the numbers in a useful perspective,” he said.
The study cautioned, however, that electronic cigarette users were inhaling substantial quantities of the main chemicals in these products (propylene glycol and glycerin). And while these chemicals were not considered dangerous and their levels were far below occupational exposure limits, Burstyn suggested ongoing monitoring to confirm that there was no risk.
The chemical contaminants were found to be of even less concern. “While there have been many claims that formaldehyde, acrolein, nitrosamines, metals and ethylene glycol found in e-cigarette vapor poses a health hazard, the study concluded that all of these have been found only at trivial levels that pose no health concern,” the press note said.
The study is available at http://publichealth.drexel.edu/SiteData/docs/ms08/f90349264250e603/ms08.pdf.