Teens who use e-cigarettes are also exposed to significant levels of toxic chemicals that are found in tobacco cigarettes, regardless if the e-cigarettes they use do not contain nicotine.
E-Cigarette Users Also Exposed To Toxic Organic Compounds
In the study published in the journal Pediatrics, Mark Rubinstein, from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and colleagues analyzed urine samples from a group of kids who were 16.4 years old on average.
Sixty-seven of the kids used e-cigarettes only while 17 used both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco cigarettes. The researchers then compared their result with those of 20 teens who did not smoke.
The findings revealed that the e-cigarette users had three times the level of toxic organic compounds detected in the non-smoking teens. The teens who used both e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes, on the other hand, had three times the level of toxic compounds detected in those who use only e-cigarettes.
The researchers said that the findings should serve as a warning of the dangers of using e-cigarettes.
"Teenagers need to be warned that the vapor produced by e-cigarettes is not harmless water vapor, but actually contains some of the same toxic chemicals found in smoke from traditional cigarettes," Rubinstein said. "Teenagers should be inhaling air, not products with toxins in them."
Among the compounds the researchers detected included acrolein, acrylonitrile, crotonaldehyde, propylene oxide, and acrylamide, which all belong to a class of chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Toxic VOCs are also present in traditional tobacco products.
Flavored E-Cigarettes Without Nicotine
The researchers also said that some of these toxic chemicals were still detected in teens who used flavored cigarettes without nicotine. Fruit flavored e-cigarettes in particular produce higher amounts of acrylonitrile and this raises concern since fruit flavors tends to be most popular among teens.
An earlier study also revealed that cinnamon and vanilla e-cigarette flavorings may cause damage to the lungs regardless if they do not contain nicotine.
Rubinstein said that glycerin and propylene glycol that are used to retain the liquid form of the products smoked in e-cigarettes are considered safe at room temperature. Unfortunately, they can produce toxic and potentially carcinogenic substances when they are heated to high temperatures needed for vaporization.
"Although e-cigarette vapor may be less hazardous than tobacco smoke, our findings can be used to challenge the idea that e-cigarette vapor is safe, because many of the volatile organic compounds we identified are carcinogenic," the researchers wrote in their study.