Flavored e-cigarette liquid aerosols (or ‘vapors’) contain dangerous levels of hazardous chemicals known to cause cancer, new research has found. 

The researchers measured concentrations of 12 toxic aldehydes in aerosols produced by 3 common e-cigarette devices. Five different flavors were tested in each device to assess whether the flavoring additives affected the production of toxic aldehydes, such as formaldehyde. Two unflavored e-liquids were also tested.

In all experiments, the amount of aldehydes produced by the flavored e-cigarette liquids exceeded the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for hazardous chemical exposure. 

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A series of experiments in which flavored e-liquid was diluted with different amounts of the unflavored e-liquid was conducted to assess whether it was, in fact, the flavoring compounds and not the carrier e-liquid solvent (commonly propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin) which produced the aldehydes. Results showed that the liquids with higher flavor content produced larger amounts of aldehydes due to pyrolysis of the flavoring compounds.

“One puff of any of the flavored e-liquids that we tested exposes the smoker to unacceptably dangerous levels of these aldehydes, most of which originates from thermal decomposition of the flavoring compounds,” said Andrey Khylstov, PhD, associate research professor of atmospheric sciences at DRI, and study co-author.

The authors say their findings demonstrate the need for further research into the effects of flavoring additives used in e-cigarettes. There full findings are published in this week’s Environmental Science & Technology.

For more information visit ACS.org.