Irritating Compounds Can Show Up In ‘Vape Juice’

Scientists are not sure about the long-term impact of “vape juice,” the liquid used in e-cigarettes and vape vaporizers. Researchers who are studying the liquid, as well as the vapor that it creates when heated, suggest that some types of e-liquids react to create irritating chemicals known as Acetals when they are on shelves.

Over 3 million youngsters in middle and high school and numerous adults smoke e-cigarettes, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of them may be breathing in these substances often. It could be irritating or even harmful to their lungs. Yale, as well as Duke University researchers, recommend.

The study, released on Tuesday, focused on eight flavors from Juul E-liquids, which have a different combination of solvents than other E-liquid brands. These findings expand upon similar research that the research group released in October 2018 about other brands of e-liquids.

Acetals are derived from aldehydes and alcohol. They are chemicals used to enhance the flavor of food items and other products in the commercial market. Although some aldehydes can be considered harmful, many are considered safe to consume and even touch, says Hanno Erythropel, the study’s chief author and a research associate scientist in Yale’s Department of Chemical and environmental engineering.

However, there is not much information about the adverse effects of acetals and aldehydes when breathed in this manner, Erythropel adds, although some studies have demonstrated that acetals can irritate the airways more severely than aldehydes which are the basis of which they created. In addition, irritation may trigger an inflammatory response within the respiratory system.

In contrast to the small quantities of acetals you can get from foods, Erythropel says, with smoking vapes, “you are breathing this in. We didn’t imagine people would be inhaling flavor compounds at the level they are now. We have very little information.”

At this point, it is clear that the FDA has decided not to require companies that make e-liquids to list the entire list of ingredients used within their formulations. Thus, the Yale chemical experts were required to “reverse-engineer” the e-liquids by separating and quantifying their chemical components.

Through this method, they discovered the presence of acetals in one of the 8 Juul flavors they examined, including the creme brulee. Researchers say this flavor, which utilizes vanillin to give a vanilla-like scent, has a high amount of vanillin acetals. Other flavors may also contain aldehydes and acetals, according to them. However, they did not test in this study all possible aldehydes.

Julie Zimmerman, the study’s principal researcher and professor of the department of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale, explains that more research must be conducted before making any conclusions regarding E-liquids’ security. This research must consider potential chemical reactions between the different chemical components of e-liquids that can result in altered products.

Dr. Robert Jackler, a Stanford professor of otorhinolaryngology, is focused on the throat, ear, and nose and has been studying the explosive growth of electronic cigarettes in the youth. The paper “contributes to the increasing body of evidence documenting toxicological effects of e-cig vapor by specifically testing Juul’s sweet and fruity flavors, which are so popular among teens.” Erythropel will point out that any flavoring product could contain aldehydes, even the general “tobacco-flavored” one.

This and other findings suggest that there could be long-term health effects for children who smoke electronic cigarettes, according to Dr. Christina Sadreameli, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University and a pediatric Pulmonologist. Sadreameli, also a spokeswoman on behalf of the American Lung Association, says electronic cigarettes have been promoted for a long time by manufacturers as smoking e-cigarettes as a healthier option than smoking cigarettes with no health risks.

However, “this notion [that] ‘it’s just water vapor and nicotine and flavorings’ is very untrue,” she claims. “E-cigarette vapor contains a lot of harmful chemicals, heavy metals [and] ultrafine particles.”

She states that acetals have been discovered within vape liquids, “raises yet another reason to worry about what is in the vape aerosol and how that can harm the developing lung.”

In response to questions about the study’s findings, a Juul spokesperson, Lindsay Andrews, said the vanillin levels (which can be described as an aldehyde) the researchers have cited in their study exceeded “real world” exposures from Juul pods.

While little is understood about the long-term effects of smoking vapes, health concerns have begun to be revealed. This week The Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin announced that eight teens had been admitted for “seriously damaged lungs” over July.

The signs that brought them to the hospital included “shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, cough, and weight loss,” according to the hospital. While all of the teens improved after treatment, and the cause for the symptoms is unknown, most had been vaping for months and weeks before being admitted to the hospital.

Zimmerman, Erythropel, and their colleagues hope to conduct more studies on the health consequences of the inhalation of Acetals. However, it could take a while before health professionals know the full extent of inhaling acetals and smoking more generally, Jackler says.

“Teens acquiring the habit of daily use of e-cigarettes, driven by nicotine addiction, may well suffer adverse health consequences over time,” the doctor warns. “This means we will not know the full impact of the teen e-cigarette epidemic for decades.”

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