A study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found high levels of toxic metals in the liquid that creates the aerosol that e-cigarette users inhale when they vape.
The study, believed to be the first to examine a cross-section of metals in multiple e-cigarette brands, analyzed the liquid in five brands of first generation e-cigarettes for cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese and nickel. The liquid is the component of e-cigarettes that, when heated, delivers ingredients, often including nicotine and flavors, to the user. In first generation e-cigarettes, the liquid is stored in the cartridge in close contact with the heating coil. The researchers found all five heavy metals – which can be toxic or carcinogenic when inhaled – in all five brands, though levels varied by brand. The main source of the metals, the researchers believe, is the coil that heats the liquid that creates the aerosol, which is often but erroneously referred to as vapor. The study did not look at the possible presence of metals in e-cigarette aerosol.
The findings appear in the January issue of the journal Environmental Research.
“We do not know if these levels are dangerous, but their presence is troubling and could mean that the metals end up in the aerosol that e-cigarette users inhale,” says study leader Dr. Ana María Rule, an assistant scientist in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering. “One of the things that is troubling is that the metals in e-cigarette coils, which heat the liquid that creates the aerosol, are toxic when inhaled, so perhaps regulators might want to look into an alternative material for e-cigarette heating coils.”