Monday, 8 September 2014

Scary substances found in e-liquid... and in everything else we eat, drink or inhale

Lately we've gotten some reports and studies about the dangers of vaping. Apparently the vapor produced by our e-cigarettes are not completely free of dangerous substances after all. A friend of mine told me a couple of days ago that he had read they were even more dangerous than real cigarettes. I didn't get to the bottom of exactly where he had read it but I am guessing there has been some article in Norwegian media related to the findings of diacetyl in e-liquid. Probably about as scary as this one from Metro: http://goo.gl/WBUugk. Or it might have been some article about the WHO report and their unsupported claims of dangerous substances in e-cigarette vapor.


The article from Metro is a typical example of how this has been covered in the media lately. What happens is that someone studies or just tests the vapor from a bunch of e-liquids with a bunch of different devices, and ends up managing to find trace levels of some kind of dangerous substance in it. Some times it's not even very dangerous, but has a long and scary sounding name. Then it's published in a way that makes it look like all e-liquids and e-cigarettes produces deadly vapor that will fuck up your lungs and it's probably best to keep smoking cigarettes.

The big problem is that they leave out a very essential piece of information: The amount of the substance found. When it comes to the diacetyl-case the articles focus on what happened to people that got the ‘popcorn worker’s lung’-condition. But what they fail to mention is that the levels found in one flavour of e-liquid, that the manufacturer has already withdrawn from the market, was much lower than the levels found in cigarettes. And cigarettes haven't caused any popcorn worker's lungs yet. But still Metro came up with this headline: "Butterscotch e-cig liquid ‘has links to serious lung condition’". Kind of misleading don't you think? My friends at the Ashtray Blog has written a great article about this (I even stole their graphics to illustrate this post by the way).

We've also had similar cases where someone has found traces of metals in vapor. Like this study for example: http://goo.gl/mOHXxR. Here the case is that vapor contains even more of some metals than cigarette smoke. But what they don't mention is that the levels found are below the levels of Big Pharmas nicotine inhalers, and also way below the USP Standards for Metals in Inhalation Medications (http://goo.gl/eqmfFh).

There are a lot of scary sounding substances in the food we eat, the water we drink and even the air we breathe (http://goo.gl/e34ZDD). Many of them will kill you if you get too much of them. So why are we still alive then? Obviously this has to do with how much of these substances you get into your system. Even pure water will kill you if you drink to much of it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_intoxication). This is just common sense. Leaving out such essential information, and just focusing on what scary substance they've found and what it can do to you is as bad as lying about what they've found. It will only serve to scare people back to cigarettes and an early death.

I'm not saying that we should not care that these substances are found in our e-liquid. We most definitely should care, and we should take action to enhance the safety. And the vaping industry does care. The e-liquid in question was already withdrawn from the market when the story hit the media. The problem is how these findings are presented in the media. Every day elevated levels of dangerous substances are found in food, drinks and air, but we usually don't go around crying out for bans. We try to make the products better instead. And this is the focus we need to have when it comes to e-liquids and vapor as well, even if the levels found are far from dangerous. There is no need for diacetyl in e-liquid, but there is also no need for this scaremongering over some trace levels found in an already withdrawn flavour.

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