E-cigarettes contaminants are lower than thought and far below toxicity levels (PDF)

08/13/2013 - 00:00

By Igor Burstyn, PhD - 

The aim of this paper is to review available data on chemistry of aerosols and liquids of electronic cigarettes and to make predictions about compliance with occupational exposure limits of personal exposures of vapers (e-cigarette users) to compounds found in the aerosol. Both peer-reviewed and “grey” literatures were accessed and more than 9000 observations of highly variable quality were extracted. Comparisons to the most universally recognized workplace exposure standards, Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), were conducted under “worst case” assumptions about both chemical content of aerosol and liquids as well as behavior of vapers. The calculations reveal that there was no evidence of potential for exposures of e-cigarette users to contaminants that are associated with risk to health at a level that would warrant attention if it were an involuntary workplace exposures by approaching half of TLV. The vast majority of predicted exposures are <<1% of TLV. Predicted exposures to acrolein and formaldehyde are typically <5% TLV. Considering exposure to the aerosol as a mixture of contaminants did not indicate that exceeding half of TLV for mixtures was plausible. Only exposures to the declared major ingredients -- propylene glycol and glycerin -- warrant attention because of precautionary nature of TLVs for exposures to hydrocarbons with no established toxicity. Comparing the exposure to nicotine to existing occupational exposure standards is not valid so long as nicotinecontaining liquid is not mislabeled as nicotine-free. It must be noted that the quality of much of the data that was available for these assessment was poor, and so much can be done to improve certainty in this risk assessment. However, the existing research is of the quality that is comparable with most workplace assessments for novel technologies. In summary, an analysis of current state of knowledge about chemistry of liquids and aerosols associated with electronic cigarettes indicates that there is no evidence that vaping produces inhalable exposures to contaminants of the aerosol that would warrant health concerns by the standards that are used to ensure safety of workplaces. However, the aerosol generated during vaping as a whole (contaminants plus declared ingredients), if it were an emission from industrial process, creates personal exposures that would justify surveillance of health among exposed persons in conjunction with investigation of means to keep health effects as low as reasonably achievable. Exposures of bystanders are likely to be orders of magnitude less, and thus pose no apparent concern