Exposing the Hidden Dangers in Vaping Clouds: How E-Cig Chemicals Intensify Metal Exposures

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That satisfying vapor cloud from your vape conceals an invisible menace - toxic metals that can silently scar your lungs. New research brings this stealthy threat to light

The e-cigarette market evolves so swiftly that potentially hazardous aspects easily elude surveillance. Lung-damaging toxic metals lurking unseen in vaping emissions pose one such stealthy threat. But new research illuminates a critical relationship most vapers likely remain unaware of - how e-cigarette chemical formulas impact metal levels in vapor.1  

The study examined four popular pod-style e-cigarette brands using different acids to form nicotine salts: benzoic acid in Juul, levulinic acid in glas, and lactic acid in NJoy, Vuse, and blu.2 After analyzing metal content in aerosols from 50 puffs, researchers made an unsettling discovery: formulas with nicotine lactic acid salt yielded far higher airborne chromium, zinc, and especially nickel than benzoic or levulinic versions - by over 15 times for nickel.3

Since the team found metals largely originated inside e-cigarette device components corroded by liquids, harsher corrosion from lactic acid salts likely boosted metal transfer into aerosols.3 Lactic acid's chemical structure may particularly effectively extract metals.4 Alarmingly, in some cases just 10 lactic acid vapor puffs packed hundreds of times more nickel than inhaled from smoking a cigarette.5 Nickel and compounds like chromium pose well-established respiratory health hazards, including inflammation, weakened lung function, and cancer upon chronic exposures.6 While long-term implications remain uncertain, vapers surely don't wish to inhale heightened levels of substances known to scar lungs.  

By elucidating how common e-liquid chemicals modify device corrosion and metal vaporization differently, these findings highlight the complex inner workings determining what enters vapers' lungs.7 This variable vulnerability means manufacturers and regulators should vigilantly monitor popular e-cigarette brands for stealth metal amplification. Users deserve awareness of which formulas minimize metal inhalation risks.  

Moving forward, manufacturers should also list manufacturing dates and expiration times to enable research on corrosion over products' lifespans.8 Additional work might explore metal particulate versus the inherent toxicity of the chemicals present in the vapor clouds, given differing lung impacts.9


References

1. R. Steven Pappas et al., "Lactic Acid Salts of Nicotine Potentiate the Transfer of Toxic Metals into Electronic Cigarette Aerosols," Toxics 12, no. 1 (2022): 65, https://doi.org/10.3390/toxics12010065.

2. Pappas et al., "Lactic Acid Salts."

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry, Toxicological Profile for Nickel (Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 2005).

8. Pappas et al., "Lactic Acid Salts."

9. Ibid.

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