E-cigarettes may expose users to higher levels of toxic chemicals than tobacco smoke, a new Roswell Park Cancer Institute study found.
The study, published online by Nicotine and Tobacco Research, found that an e-cigarette operated at lower voltage generated only traces of some toxic chemicals. But as the voltage increased, the levels of toxic chemicals significantly increased, too.
“These results suggest that some types of electronic cigarettes might expose their users to the same or even higher levels of carcinogenic formaldehyde than tobacco smoke. Users of high-voltage e-cigarettes need to be warned about this increased risk of harmful effects,” said Maciej Goniewicz, a researcher in the Department of Health Behavior.
Some e-cigarettes allow users to change the voltage to increase vapor production and nicotine delivery. The researchers examined chemicals in vapors generated from e-cigarettes at different voltages.
They found that when an e-cigarette was operated at lower voltage, the vapors contain only traces of some toxic chemicals. These compounds include formaldehyde, a known carcinogen; acetaldehyde, a possible carcinogen; and two chemicals – acrolein and acetone – known to irritate nasal and lung tissue.
The researchers set out to examine two factors that could increase health risks to users: nicotine solvent and battery output voltage. Goniewicz recommended further research to examine other product characteristics that may impact toxicity, such as heating elements, flavorings and additives.
The study was conducted in collaboration with the Medical University of Silesia in Poland.