New research from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute shows that e-cigarettes may produce higher levels of toxic chemicals than tobacco smoke.
An e-cigarette operated at lower voltage generated only traces of certain toxic chemicals, but at higher voltage, the levels of toxic chemicals increased significantly, the Buffalo News reports. The study, conducted in collaboration with the Medical University of Silesia (Poland), was published online in Nicotine & Tobacco Research. Maciej Goniewicz, a researcher in the cancer institute’s Department of Health Behavior, said the “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.” Those who use high-voltage e-cigarettes need to aware of the increased risk, Goniewicz said.
With some e-cigarettes, the user can change the voltage to increase vapor production and nicotine delivery. The researchers examined the chemicals generated at different voltages and found that when an e-cigarette was operated at higher voltage, toxic chemicals increased. These include formaldehyde, a known carcinogen; acetaldehyde, a possible carcinogen; and acrolein and acetone, two substances known to irritate nasal and lung tissue, according to the Buffalo News.
Two factors that could increase health risks to users were examined: the type of nicotine solvent and battery output voltage. “The striking finding of our study,” the authors write, “is that levels of carbonyls rapidly increase with increased battery output voltage from different ECs,” according to Nicotine & Tobacco Research. The highest levels of carbonyls were observed in vapors generated from propylene glycol-based solutions, which suggests that PG is more susceptible to thermal decomposition than some other ingredients. Goniewicz recommended examining other elements that may impact toxicity, such as heating elements in e-cigarettes, and flavorings and additives in e-liquids.