Vaping: High lead and nickel found in illegal vapes

Vapes seized from students at school have significant amounts of nickel, lead, and chromium BBC News has found.

Vapes used in Baxter College in Kidderminster were tested in a laboratory.

The research showed that children using these products could be breathing in more than twice the recommended daily amount of lead and nine times more than the recommended amount of nickel.

Sure, vapes contain harmful chemicals like those found in cigarettes.

High exposure to lead in children could influence the nervous system’s central and brain development, per the World Health Organization.

Vapes are believed to be used extensively by students in secondary schools in the UK. Baxter College is not alone in trying to stop smoking during school hours.

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The Inter Scientific laboratory in Liverpool collaborates with vape producers to ensure that regulatory standards are adhered to and tested 18 vapes.

Most were narcotics and had not been tested before being offered for sale in the UK.

Lab Co-founder David Lawson said: “In 15 years of testing, I’ve not seen lead in any device.

“None of them should be sold on the market. They violate all regulations on the permissible amounts of metal.

“They are the worst set of results I’ve ever seen.”

The study found that in “highlighter vapes” – designed using bright colors that make them look like highlighter pens the quantities of the metals that were found included:

  • lead 12 micrograms per gram, 2.4 times the stipulated safe exposure limit
  • nickel – 9.6 times safe levels
  • chromium levels – 6.6 times the safe level

The metals were believed to be derived through the heating elements, but tests proved they were present in the e-liquid.

In the lab, tests revealed carbonyls, a class of compounds that break down as the e-liquid warms to form chemicals like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. These are also present in cigarettes – at a rate ten times higher than the levels found in e-liquids that are legal. Some were even higher than cigarettes.

Manufacturers must adhere to regulations regarding ingredients, packaging, and marketing. All E-cigarettes and e-liquids must be regulated by the Medicine and Health Care Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The agency is not obliged to verify the claims in documents and does not have the power to examine products that are not registered.

MHRA head of electronic cigarettes, Craig Copland, said the results would be examined to determine whether the vapes could pose a health risk.

BBC News showed the findings to Baxter College pupils Leon and Oscar, whose vapes were confiscated. They confessed in a previous interview that they were addicted to nicotine and fought to give the habit of smoking.

Image caption, Baxter College pupils Leon and Oscar learning about their confiscated vapes

The boys claim it’s easy to overlook the dangers.

“You won’t really care, if you’re addicted to it – you’ll just forget about it,” Oscar declared.

Leon believes that regulation and policing should do more to combat the problem.

“They’re not really as bothered as they should be,” he added.

The head instructor Mat Carpenter was horrified by the results. He’s installed sensors in the school’s toilets to limit the chances of vaping.

“It’s been part of youth culture for a long time and we are a long way behind the curve in influencing children’s behaviour around this, which is why we need such a strong message,” Mr. Carpenter declared.

“As a society we are capable of holding two messages, one that if you smoke already vaping can have a positive effect on your health, but children should not be vaping.”

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University of Nottingham epidemiology professor John Britton, who sits on the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Group, said that inhaling the metals can be hazardous.

“Lead is a neurotoxin and impairs brain development, chrome and nickel are allergens and metal particles in general in the bloodstream can trigger blood clotting and can exacerbate cardiovascular disease,” he added.

“The carbonyls are mildly carcinogenic and so with sustained use will increase the risk of cancer – but in legal products, the levels of all of these things is extremely low so the lifetime risk to the individual is extremely small.”

However, Mr. Lawson claimed that there had been more of an increase in illicit products recently, in recent months, and “some of these are hard to distinguish between the ones which are potentially legal.”

Prof. Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said she had been “genuinely shocked” by the findings.

“Unregulated products should be removed from our streets and out of our stores, and our children must be secured.

“Vaping is something we should be avoiding if we can, albeit better than smoking. If you have any suspicion that your child is using an illicit vape, this is dangerous for their health. Please intervene,” she warned parents and caregivers.

The government has provided PS3m to combat the sales of illicit tobacco products in England. The plan is to increase the number of testing purchases and have the vapes removed from stores, and it is asking for proof to reduce the number of youngsters who can access vapes.

It is against the law to sell vapes to children under 18. However, a YouGov survey conducted in March and April of Action on Smoking and Health shows a surge in experimental vaping among 11 to 17-year-olds, ranging from 7.7 percent in the previous year to 11.6 percent.

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