Study finds dangerous chemical found in e-cigs

Posted at 8:03 AM, Dec 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-10 08:03:17-05

Harvard is putting out a warning to e-cigarette users - dangerous chemicals have been found in flavors.

However, vapor store owners, and even doctors, say the study does not account for the drastic difference with what traditional cigarettes contain.

According to a Harvard study, the popular flavors that many people puff contain a chemical called diacytel, which has been linked to a condition known as "popcorn lung."

The study claims that more than 75-percent of flavors that were tested contained diacytel. The respiratory disease known as "popcorn lung" first appeared in workers who inhaled artificial butter flavoring from microwave popcorn.

Dr. Andrew Hyland with the Roswell Park Cancer Institute describes the condition as "a severe swelling within the lung -- like a real bad case of bronchitis, but it's irreversible."

However, some e-cigarette users say the study does not bother them.

"I smoked two and half packs a day, sometimes three," said Charles Gavadim. "Within a single day, I completely set down cigarettes and have not had a cigarette since." Gavadim credits e-cigarettes.

The study does not say how much of the chemical was in the flavors. It only says researchers found above levels of detection, and that same flavors which claimed not to have any diacetyl actually did.

Vapor store owners say levels are much less than traditional cigarettes.

"If you were a tobacco smoker and you switch to electronic cigarettes, you're reducing the amount of diacetyl you're bringing by 110-percent," explained Andre Liszka, the CEO of the House of Vapor.

Liszka explained that the purpose of e-cigarettes is not to get people to start smoking, but to encourage smokers to stop or cut down.

Richard Hong with Flavor Art says the company he works for has already removed diacetyl from its vapors.

"They are an irritant to the respiratory system," Hong said, "but as an industry as a whole, you will find that we are in the process of removing many of the chemicals present."

Flavor Art also makes items in the food and cosmetic industry. Due to the fact that popcorn lung concerns are based in workers who inhale large amounts of the chemical, Hong says the company takes extra precautions. "We have air extraction hoods and gas filter masks for when we produce butter for the food industry."

At least one doctor has reacted harshly to Harvard's study. Dr. Farsalinos wrote that the study "exaggerates risks and fails to discuss" smoking traditional cigarettes.

Farsalinos states that the study "creates the impress that e-cigarettes are exposing users to a new chemical hazard, while in reality their exposure will be much lower compared to smoking."

Doctors stress getting people to stop using traditional cigarettes, which kill hundreds of thousands every year, is crucial.

"It's hard to quantify exactly how much the relative risk may be, but we definitely know whatever you have to do to get off of cigarettes," Hyland said.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1.78 million children tried e-cigarettes as of 2012. Liszka says that most stores, including his, require identification.

The FDA, in a statement to 7 Eyewitness News, stated that it is "currently supporting more than 50 research projects addressing e-cigarettes. The projects include studies looking at both youth and adult awareness, use, reasons for use, attitudes, perceptions and dependence."

The FDA has made proposals to be able to regulate e-cigarettes.




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