A few years ago when e-cigarettes really started to become popular, I remember saying, “it is just a matter of time before we find out how bad those are for you too.” Well, that time is now. A new study that was published in Environmental Health Perspectives is showing that a common chemical, diacetyl, is causing serious health concerns.
What is Diacetyl?
Diacetyl, which was found in over 75% of flavored electronic cigarettes, is a chemical that is used to create artificial flavors. It’s been known for years that diacetyl is extremely hazardous to your health. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns against workers inhaling diacetyl because of the association between inhaling the chemical and the development of a debilitating respiratory disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans. Bronchiolitis obliterans is usually known as “popcorn lung” because it first appeared in workers who inhaled artificial butter flavor in microwave popcorn processing facilities.
So why would a chemical that is known to cause a debilitating disease be purposefully added to e-cig refill liquid?
Diacetyl is the chemical that is responsible for the variety of artificial flavors of e-cig refills like “cupcake”, “cotton candy”, and “chocolate cake” that make them so popular. The author of the study mentioned above, Joseph Allen, tested 51 different types of e-cig refills and found that 47 of them contained at least one of three major chemicals that are known to cause respiratory damage.
In his report, Allen wrote: “Recognition of the hazards associated with inhaling flavoring chemicals started with ‘popcorn lung’ over a decade ago. However, diacetyl and other related flavoring chemicals are used in many other flavors beyond butter-flavored popcorn, including fruit flavors, alcohol flavors, and, we learned in our study, candy-flavored e-cigarettes.”
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Just Say No
E-cigarettes are currently unregulated by the FDA. There is legislation being proposed to have e-cigs and the refill fluids eligible for regulation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be safer. The FDA doesn’t have the greatest track record for removing truly hazardous chemicals from consumer products, so it’s probably best that you just avoid e-cigs like you avoid real cigarettes.