Vaping can cause health-damaging chemical reactions, a new study from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland warns.
The study, led by researchers at RCSI’’s Department of Chemistry, found that heating vitamin E acetate through vaping can produce ketene, a highly toxic gas.
While vitamin E acetate is typically found in illicit street-bought vapes or e-cigarettes, the researchers warned about the potential dangers of the ever-growing number of chemicals found in vaping products.
“The high temperatures created in vaping devices can lead to unforeseen chemical reactions,” said the study’’s lead author and RCSI Professor of Chemistry, Donal O’’Shea.
“Therefore, other components of vape mixtures, including flavours and additives, also require investigation as they too may produce toxic and carcinogenic substances when heated,” said Prof O’’Shea.
He pointed out that the experiments they conducted were designed to determine the vaping effect on a single pure substance at the chemistry molecular level.
“Determining the exact relevance of these results to the direct cause of lung injury requires further studies due to the diversity in vaping devices, mixtures and their modes of use,” he said.
Almost 3,000 cases of vaping-related lung illness have been reported in the US, with 68 confirmed deaths in 29 states.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found the vitamin E acetate was strongly linked to the outbreak.
However, some patient lung biopsies showed signs of chemical burns that vitamin E acetate alone would not be expected to cause.
Vitamin E acetate is primarily found in illegally made tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing e-cigarette or vaping products.
The Irish researchers have shown that heating vitamin E acetate through vaping can produce ketene, a highly toxic gas.
They connected a vaping device to a series of glass vessels that allowed them to collect samples after simulating a person vaping vitamin acetate from the device.
As well as chemically trapping the toxic ketene gas, the researchers also found that heating vitamin acetate produces other carcinogens that are found in regular tobacco smoke.
A spokesperson for Vape Business Ireland, Joe Dunne, said e-cigarette manufacturers or importers must notify the HSE of any product they intend to place on the Irish market.
“All of the e-cigarette products on sale in Ireland are strictly regulated. We know exactly what is on the market," he said.
A report from the Health Information and Quality Authority found that while e-cigarettes are potentially safer than smoking, evidence on long-term safety has yet to be established.
The Health Research Board is conducting a review of the evidence about the health-harms of e-cigarettes.
The evidence review, requested by Minister for Health Simon Harris in March last year is expected to be completed next month and will contribute to the development of a policy position on e-cigarettes.