The Truth Behind the Formaldehyde Scare
A study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine regarding the existence of formaldehyde in e-cigarette vapor. In fact, based on the conclusions stated in this study, e-cigarette vapor may contain more formaldehyde than traditional cigarette smoke. However, is that the whole story?
Let’s start by taking a look at the findings from the New England Journal of Medicine –
“Formaldehyde is a known degradation product of propylene glycol that reacts with propylene glycol and glycerol during vaporization to produce hemiacetals. In many samples of the particulate matter in ‘vaped’ e-cigarettes, more than 2% of the total solvent molecules have converted to formaldehyde-releasing agents, reaching concentrations higher than concentrations of nicotine. Here we present results of an analysis of commercial e-liquid vaporized with the use of a ‘tank system’ e-cigarette featuring a variable voltage battery. At low voltage (3.3v) we did not detect the formation of any formaldehyde-releasing agents. At high voltage (5.0v), formaldehyde was detected as formaldehyde-releasing agents. Extrapolating from the results at high voltage, an e-cigarette user vaping at a rate of 3ml per day would inhale 14.4mg of formaldehyde per day in formaldehyde-releasing agents. One estimate of the average delivery of formaldehyde from conventional cigarettes is approximately 3mg per pack.”
To summarize what this study is saying – at 3.3v of a standard variable voltage tank system e-cig, no formaldehyde was found. However, at 5.0v of the same system, formaldehyde-releasing agents were found at over 10 times the amount found in traditional cigarettes. Now, on first inspection, this sounds really bad for vaping. Yet, there are additional factors that need to be considered when looking at this study.
In a Tobacco Analysis article titled The Rest of the Story the authors bring up an interesting, and pivotal point regarding the evaluation of the results of this study:
“There’s just one problem with the study, but the problem renders it’s conclusions invalid. The conditions used to study the e-cigarette aerosol at the high voltage settings were unrealistic and under such conditions, a vaper would never be able to use the product. This is because the wattage being used was so high that the vaporizer was overheated (for a conventional e-cigarette it would likely damage or burn the coils), creating a horrible taste which a vaper could not tolerate. Essentially, what this study demonstrates is that if you overheat a vaping system, it will produce high levels of formaldehyde. However, such conditions are not realistic, therefore, extrapolating from this study to a lifetime of vaping is meaningless.”
Meaning that in order to achieve the voltage necessary to reach the levels of formaldehyde discovered in this study, you would have to overheat your atomizer, burn your coils and then vape that repeatedly to be exposed.
Now, it looks like we’re comparing a scientific study with just another vaper disputing the information, so I want to share one more source with you regarding the results of this study. Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos is a cardiologist, and has studied the effects of smoking on cardiac dysfunction since 2010, and performing research on e-cigs since 2011. Dr. Farsalinos has no relation to the e-cigarette or tobacco industry, making his research completely independent. Yesterday, January 21, 2015 Dr. Farsalinos published an article on E-Cigarette Research titled The Deception of Measuring Formaldehyde in E-Cigarette Aerosol . This is what he concluded:
“There are many major issues in that study. The authors failed to realize that voltage levels provide no information about the thermal load of an e-cigarette device. As a result we do not know how many watts were applied to the atomizer. However, there is a way to approximate this, through the information provided about the liquid consumption per puff. Based on the information provided at 5.0v the energy was around 14-16 watts. That would be extremely high for most commercially-available atomizers. Thus it is more than obvious that once again the atomizer was overheated, which of course would result in very high levels of formaldehyde production. In fact, overheating results in an unpleasant taste that none can withstand. As a result, no vaper is ever using the e-cigarette at such conditions and, thus, will never be exposed to such levels of formaldehyde. The story published in New England Journal of Medicine is similar to finding carcinogens in an overcooked piece of meat that none can ever eat. Of course the findings are true, but none will be exposed to the levels found.”
Basically, what Dr. Farsalinos is saying is that the atomizer in the e-cig used was overheated, which always causes formaldehyde from the combustion. Yet, vapers don’t sit and vape all day on an overheated and burnt coil. In fact, we can rarely get an actual hit off of one. The second we get that burnt taste we pull everything apart and replace the coil. Meaning, we would never be exposed to the formaldehyde discovered in this new study.
Now that we know that, while it’s true that high levels of formaldehyde were found, it is not under standard vaping use and we can look at the bright side of this study. No formaldehyde at all was found when the atomizer was within it’s range of vaping ability. That means, this study just proved that there isn’t searchable traces of formaldehyde in our vape! This is a very good thing Vape Fans! It’s one more study showing that when you actually vape within the limits of your e-cig, there is one less chemical that you used to get from smoking, no longer being inhaled!
In summary, while at first the study may seem to be indicating that there are extremely high levels of formaldehyde in our vape, closer inspection shows us quite the opposite. If you’re not vaping on an overheated atomizer and burnt coil, you aren’t inhaling any searchable levels of formaldehyde. I encourage each of you to look closely at the reality surrounding the information being given to you by the mainstream media, especially when it comes to e-cigarettes. As we’ve shown here, important information can at times get lost in translation, resulting in a completely different conclusion than that which would be reached with all of the information. Read and question everything to truly educate yourselves and find the truth. Until next time, let us know what you think of the information you’ve seen in the media, compared to what you have learned here.
Written By: Michelle Harnden
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