It seems that the fashionable new electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) may not be as safe as was originally thought. I have tried them and was quite impressed with them, thinking that they could be an effective aid in quitting smoking. However, a recent study has shown that they contain volatile compounds, formaldehyde, acetone and acetyldehye, like real cigarettes, and also silicate and benzopyrene, as well as various particles of metals.
Electronic cigarettes, it turns out, are not emission-free. The volatile chemicals they contain, including nicotine, propylene glycol and flavors, are emitted as vapor, which in effect are toxic secondhand “smoke”. These vapors are emitted as mist or aerosol indoors.The research shows that these ultrafine particles of less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, may penetrate into the lungs deeply. They do however contain considerably fewer of these ultrafine particles than normal cigarettes, but the main concern is that these particles may still be inhaled by non-users when in an indoor area. The German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, which conducted these studies, said that the secondhand emissions from these aids should not be discounted when considering health risks.
The study lists the substances in the vapor as follows: besides glycol, which is the main ingredient, there is nicotine, naturally, flavourings, nitrosamines which are usually found only in tobacco, acetone, volatile organic compounds of chemicals, formaldehyde, acetone, certain metal particles, silica, acetaldehyde, benzopyrene (also known as benzoapyrene). The particle size is around the same as the size of particles in the vapor of conventional cigarettes, i.e. between 100 and 600 nanometers. Although the level of harmful chemical substances is lower in these than in the usual cigarettes, they tend to accumulate in indoor air.
It is as well for everyone to be aware of these factors, that e-cigarettes can still produce damaging secondhand “smoke”, since it is common sense for everyone to avoid inhaling these types of vapors if possible. Non-users of these can then take precautions, for example around children and others who may be sensitive and at risk in some way. Currently these personal vaporisers (PVs) are legal to be used indoors, but it may not be long before they are banned by the government, especially in businesses and workplaces, for the reasons stated here. This could be a big step back, since it would be violating civil property rights, and also making it more difficult for users who are trying hard to quit and find that e-cigarettes are really helping them.
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