"It's important for the FDA, the e-cigarette companies, and vapers themselves to know that these heating coils, as now made, seem to be leaking toxic metals - which then get into the aerosols that vapers inhale", said senior author Ana María Rule, an air pollution researcher at John Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a statement. The heat generates aerosol, which is a mix of vapors and tiny droplets formed from the e-liquid. Past research has found that oils used to vape contain toxins, and a new study shows that the latest e-cigarette devices might leak unsafe amounts of metal, including lead, which could have serious health risks.
Experts from Johns Hopkins University school of public health looked at vaping devices owned by 56 users.
Then they tested the aerosol that users inhale into their lungs, which is generated by the e-liquid being heated by a battery-powered metal coil.
Researchers tested for the presence of 15 different metals. Among the metals present in the aerosols, lead, chromium, nickel, and manganese are the most toxic ones when inhaled.
In the aerosol samples, nearly 50 percent of them had lead concentrations higher than health-based limits defined by the Environmental Protection Agency. Precisely how metals get from the coils into e-liquid is another mystery. These metals have also been linked to cancer. They also found that the aerosols with the highest metal concentrations came from e-cigarettes that had the coils changed often.
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Arsenic also was found in some of the e-liquid samples, both in the chamber and refills, as well as some vapor samples.
But recent studies have found some e-cigarette flavours contain toxins that harm the body and another found vaping leaves people more susceptible to pneumonia.
More research is planned to determine possible health effects.
The Food and Drug Administration hasn't yet regulated e-cigarettes.
The FDA does not now regulate e-cigarettes but has the authority to do so, the study authors noted. In an earlier study of the 56 vapers, led by Angela Aherrera, MPH, a DrPH student at the Bloomberg School, the levels of nickel and chromium in urine and saliva were related to those measured in the aerosol, confirming that e-cigarette users are exposed to these metals. Rule believes the heating coils found in the tanks could somehow be transferring metal into the aerosol.
"Our results add to the existing evidence that e-cigarettes are a relevant source of exposure to a wide variety of toxic metals", the study's authors write.