Cotton candy, cupcakes, and tutti frutti conjure carefree days as a kid, but a new study shows chemical flavorings by such yummy names are used to lace e-cigarettes and can cause severe lung disease.
They looked for the chemicals diacetyl, acetoin, and 2,3-pentanedione, which have been linked to serious respiratory problems in workers. Diacetycl has been linked to a serious condition called “popcorn lung” which affected workers who inhaled artificial butter fumes at microwave popcorn factories.
The scientists tested for the chemicals by inserting an e-cigarette into a sealed chamber attached to a lab-built device that drew air through the e-cigarette for eight seconds at a time and then “rested” for 15 or 30 seconds between each draw. Then they analyzed the air streams and found that at least one of the three chemicals was detected in 47 of 51 flavors tested.
“One of three flavoring chemicals was found in 92 percent of the e-cigarettes we sampled and these chemicals are of interest because of what we know about the associations of inhaling these chemicals and severe, irreversible lung disease that occurred in popcorn workers over a decade ago,” lead study author Joseph Allen told CBS News.
Hidden carcinogen found in e-cigarettes, study finds
Diacetyl was found in more than 75 percent of flavored electronic cigarettes and refill liquids that were analyzed by the researchers. What’s more, they found that levels of diacetyl were higher than the laboratory limit of detection in 39 of the flavors tested.
Acetoin showed up in 46 e-cigarette and liquid flavors; and 2,3-pentanedione was detected in 23 of the flavors.
There are more than 7,000 varieties of flavored e-cigarettes and e-juices, nicotine-containing liquid used in refillable devices, said Allen, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health. The flavors analyzed by the scientists that came up positive for these chemicals include: Cotton Candy, Tutti Frutti, Cupcake, Fruit Squirts, Waikiki Watermelon, Double Apple Hookah, Blue Water Punch, Oatmeal Cookie and Alien Blood.
The study is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
The impact of e-cigarettes on health is still not totally clear, but Allen said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has warned workers for years about the risks of diacetyl. Inhaling the chemical is associated with “popcorn lung,” officially known as bronchiolitis obliterans, a respiratory condition that causes damage and inflammation to the airways and can be fatal.