New danger linked to e-cigarettes

A new study questions the safety of e-cigarettes, which are more and more popular and largely unregulated.

A chemical linked to “popcorn lung” disease was found in 75 percent of flavored e-cigarettes and refill liquids, researchers reported Tuesday.

Two other related and potentially harmful compounds were also found, said researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Diacetyl, associated with artificial buttering flavor, was linked to “popcorn lung” a decade ago.

That disease, known as bronchiolitis obliterans, scars lung tissue and causes coughing and shortness of breath.

Diacetyl and the related compounds are pervasive in the e-cigarettes and refills, the researchers report, especially those that appeal to young people such as Cotton Candy, Fruit Squirts and Cupcake.

Also from their press release:

There are over 7,000 varieties of flavored e-cigarettes and e-juice, a liquid with nicotine used in refillable devices.

Researchers tested 51 leading brands of e-cigarettes and liquids for diacetyl, and for acetoin and 2,3 pentanedione, two related flavoring compounds that likely pose lung hazards.

At least one of the chemicals was found in 47 of the 51 flavors. Diacetyl was found in 39, acetoinin in 46 and the third compound in 23.

Study co-author David Christiani said much is still not known about e-cigarettes and health concerns with them have mainly focused on nicotine.

But, he said, “In addition to containing varying levels of the addictive substance nicotine, they also contain other cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, and … flavoring chemicals that can cause lung damage.”

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