Toxic Metals found in E-Cigarette Vapor? Tell me More.

For those who follow the media as it relates to the e-cigarette industry, you may have noticed a singular, overarching “claim” that dominated the headlines last week. According to News Week, Business Insider, Medical News Today, and a flock of other media outlets: toxic heavy metals such as chromium, nickel, arsenic, lead, and others are leaking from e-cigarettes into e-juice.

Are we Vaping Toxic Heavy Metals?

The study, which has been cited by most media outlets, is from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. According to John Hopkins, after analyzing e-cigarettes borrowed from 56 daily vapers, researchers found many were being exposed to potentially toxic levels of heavy metals. In past studies, high concentrations of toxic heavy metals have been linked to a variety of health complications. Health complications including cardiovascular disease, brain damage, immune conditions, and an assortment of cancers.

Science Alert, and several other science-based online publications, made it clear that — while the John Hopkins study does not go as far as to connect vaping with any of these health problems — it’s no great leap to infer there’s probably an increase in risk.

To infer is to deduce, or conclude, from evidence and reasoning. Information is a tool of persuasion, be it the complete truth, or a set of loose claims. Studies like the one out of John Hopkins would cause any e-cigarette user to reconsider the act of vaping. Or even revisit an old habit such as smoking, that is widely known to be harmful — and even deadly.

If you remember, an expert independent evidence review, published by Public Health England, concluded that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to health than tobacco. They have the potential to help smokers quit smoking. Still, with PHE’s endorsement of vaping as a tool to help smokers quit, there is still an alarming lack of the truth regarding e-cigarettes.

Here are the Facts

Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos is a renowned tobacco control expert and has spent the last several years rebuking poorly designed vaping studies. After obtaining and analyzing the John Hopkins’ report, Dr. Farsalinos has discredited the study claiming the information within it to be misleading.

The report claimed that the most significant toxic heavy metal concentrations were observed in devices that had their coils changed more often. According to Konstantinos, these concentrations are far too low to be a cause for concern. He stated that the researchers over at John Hopkins failed to explain the context of these toxic substances:

“The significant amount of metals reportedly found were measured in ug/kg. In fact, they are so low that for some cases (chromium and lead), I calculated that you need to vape more than 100ml per day in order to exceed FDA limits for daily intake from inhalation medications. Humans take more than 17,000 breaths per day but only 400-600 puffs per day from an e-cigarette. So, when researchers’ calculations omit this fact, the results can appear drastically worse than they ought to.”

Furthermore, the CDC states that 3.7 percent, or roughly 9 million, American adults use electronic cigarettes on a regular basis. In a poll conducted by the UK’s Action on Smoking, it was found that only 13 percent of adults believe that vaping is probably safer than smoking. 25 percent think vaping is likely just as, if not worse than smoking.

Do Your Research

In conclusion, whether intentional or not, half-truth studies are extremely detrimental to any industry. Especially one just beginning to spread its wings. As stewards of public health, it is the duty of qualified individuals to disseminate the entire pie of factual information as it pertains to societal health. We are hopeful that more Dr. Farsalinos’s of the world will heed the call in assuring that the right information gets to the people who need it most.

Especially relevant: last week’s Truth Tuesday.

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Andrew Figgs

Photography Major from Western Washington University . I joined MBV back in December 2014 and am happy to be working in an industry focused on helping others.