Analyzes of the best-selling e-cigarettes in the United States have shown that toxins produced by certain bacteria and fungi, which can cause respiratory problems, are present on these products even before they are consumed.
Released about ten years ago, e-cigarettes have been an impressive success among smokers who consume conventional cigarettes, the majority having changed for health reasons because they would be less harmful.
Today, opinions on their safety diverge, after many studies have shown the presence of toxic molecules for the lungs, especially in the added flavors. Now, other types of harmful molecules, but of biological origin, have been found by researchers at the School of Public Health at Harvard University.
For their research whose paper was published today, scientists worked on 37 cartons of e-cigarettes as well as 38 e-liquids (substance injected into e-cigarettes to be 'vapoted'), all of these products from the top 10 US brands.
They then separated them into different categories according to their aromas (mint, fruits, tobacco …) and looked for the presence of molecules from pathogens, such as endotoxins, produced by gram-negative bacteria, or glucans, which are long chains of glucose that are on the surface of the cell wall of many fungi.
These two types of molecules are linked to serious diseases, some of which are respiratory and can cause the loss of certain lung functions, or asthma. " Gram-negative bacterial endotoxins suspended in the air and fungal-derived glucans have caused acute and chronic respiratory effects in the workplace and the environment Says David Christiani, senior author of the study.
The results of the analyzes showed that 17 of the 75 samples (23%) contain detectable amounts of endotoxin, and that glucan was present in a non-negligible concentration on 61 of them (81%). Some cartridges had up to 3.2 times more glucans than endotoxins.
The classification by aroma found that this factor was decisive, with a higher concentration of endotoxins on fruity flavors, and glucan on those with tobacco and mint. The researchers suggest that the origin of the contamination would come from the raw materials used for each of the flavors, and that it would most likely have occurred at certain stages of the production of the different compounds.
You might also like: Electronic Cigarette and e-liquid: scientific studies and smoking cessation
Researchers particularly point to the cotton wicks found in the cartridges, cotton mills being known to be often contaminated with endotoxins and glucans.
With more than 1.5 million vapers in France, the electronic cigarette is still a product that, because of its youth on the market, causes some skepticism about its effects on health. If, with the many chemical compounds it contains, you still have to add these biological contaminants in the list of dangerous molecules that are present, it is likely that after future researches this product is considered as harmful as the cigarette classic in the years to come.