It’s time for vapers to throw away their e-cigarettes and run for the hills after a new study from Hong Kong found that the vapor they produce is ONE MILLION times worse than the air in a heavily polluted city. Damn, how am I still breathing?!?
Commissioned by the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health and carried out by researchers at Baptist University, the study analyzed 13 different e-cigarette models acquired from the local market. I couldn’t find any kind of information on the methodology used, but apparently they found that the level of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – a by-product of burning petroleum that is commonly detected in roadside air – in the vapor ranged from 2.9 to 504.5 nanograms per milliliter. That doesn’t mean very much to me, but according to Dr Chung Shan-shan, assistant professor in the university’s biology department, that “is at least one million times more than roadside air in Hong Kong”.
PAHs allegedly contain highly carcinogenic chemicals such as benzo(a)pryene as well as other nasty substances that promote the growth of cancer cells.
That sounds pretty scary, but unfortunately it gets even worse. Dr. Chung and his team also detected the presence of polybrominated diphenyl ethers(PBDEs), a flame retardant used extensively in furniture and electronic products. Levels ranged from 1.7 to 1,490ng/ml in the 13 brands of e-cigarettes. Those values were a lot higher than the levels detected in two samples of conventional cigarettes used in the study, which ranged from 5.6 to 6.3ng/ml.
According to the South China Morning Post, PBDEs are used to reduce the risk of burning in the plastic combustible component of e-cigarettes, but they disrupt the production of thyroid hormones and “cause toxicity of the reproductive development”.
Last but not least, Baptist University researchers reported that while the packaging of the tested e-cigarettes either claimed they contained no nicotine or didn’t specify nicotine content at all, they found some contained between 3.5 to 28.5 ng/ml. Now, I’m no scientist, but I think one milligram contains 1 million nanograms, so I’m not sure how dangerous these levels are. Not to mention I have yet to encounter an e-cigarette manufacturer that doesn’t specify nicotine content.
“Even though we don’t know the exact number of e-cigarettes one should take, not to mention that many of the carcinogenic effects are cumulative, I don’t think there is a safe margin,” Dr Chung said, adding that the situation was worrying.
The exact number of e-cigarettes one should take… Yeah, as a vaper, I don’t really know what he means by that, and I don’t think he does either.
Anyway, based on these findings, the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health called for a ban on electronic cigarettes as soon possible, before they become even more popular. And how could they not, when electronic cigarettes apparently contain a million times more carcinogenic substances than the heavily polluted of Hong Kong?
But do they really, though? Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a supporter of electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, and the go-to guy for debunking shady studies, doesn’t think so. On his blog, E-Cigarette Research, he points out that the available information we have on this research doesn’t mention any kind of details about the methodology that was used, and that since there is no combustion in electronic cigarettes, the detection of substances resulted from complete or incomplete combustion and at such unbelievably high levels seems very unlikely.
According to his analysis, the statement that e-cigarettes contain a million times more carcinogenic chemicals than polluted Hong Kong air is completely false. “The average volume of air breathed daily by humans is 20m3 (=20,000,000 mLs). Contrary to that, an average vapers consumes 3mLs of liquid (according to our survey). Thus, the levels in outdoor air in Hong Kong would result in total daily exposure of 960 ng. The levels of exposure from e-cigarette liquids (as tested by the Hong Kong university and assuming they are correct) are 9-1500 ng. This is from 99% less up to 50% more than exposure to outdoor air (or, to express it differently, 100 times less to ½ time more). So, the statement “1,000,000 times higher levels” is completely false,” Farsalinos rights on his blog.
The Greek doctor goes on to point out a series of other ridiculous claims, including the detection of 5.6-6.3 ng/ml of PAHs in tobacco cigarettes, which are solid, not liquid. Based on these inconsistencies and the lack of an actual published study, he says there are two explanations to this bizarre report: “either the scientists have no idea about what they are talking about, or they are deliberately misinforming the public and the regulators. Even worse, they are creating panic to vapers (the vast majority of whom are former smokers), with the risk of making them relapse to smoking. This is a typical case of gross misinformation and extremely poor science. Literally, a public health disgrace… The reporters of this “study” (not authors, because there is no published study) need to immediately apologize to the public for creating this story out of nothing.”
You have to admit that Dr. Farsalinos makes some great points, but even without his analysis, no respectable news site would actually pick up this garbage without checking the facts first, right? Wrong, this story is everywhere. AOL, International Business Times, RT, and many other media giants are helping to spread this junk science – if you can even call it that – while completely ignoring any kind of positive scientific findings on e-cigarettes.
What’s worse is that they are actually winning this war on vaping, as more and more people believe e-cigarettes are as bad or worse than tobacco cigarettes.