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Study: Potentially Toxic Level of Metals Found in E-Cigarettes

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 2/23/2018 Alexa Lardieri
Man smoking e-cigarette.: Researchers found several toxic metals in the aerosol of e-cigarettes, including lead and chromium. © (Martina Paraninfi/Getty Images) Researchers found several toxic metals in the aerosol of e-cigarettes, including lead and chromium.

A new study published Thursday in Environmental Health Perspectives found toxic levels of certain metals may be leaking from the heating coils of e-cigarettes, causing users to inhale the metals each time they use the device.

The study, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, looked at a small sample of devices and found a significant number produced aerosols with potentially dangerous levels of lead, chromium, manganese and nickel. Repeated exposure to such metals can lead to lung, liver, immune, cardiovascular and brain damage, and even cancers, according to a press release for the study.

Almost half of the samples had lead concentrations higher than health-based limits set by the EPA. The researchers also detected significant levels of arsenic, a highly toxic, metal-like element, in the refill e-liquid and e-liquid tank and the aerosol samples.

In a common e-cigarette, an electric current is produced by a battery and passes through a metal coil to heat nicotine-based e-liquids to create an aerosol. Use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, has become a popular alternative among traditional cigarette smokers because it provides the nicotine hit they crave without smoking's extreme health risks. However, teens and middle schoolers have also picked up the habit.

In a survey conducted in December 2017, almost 7 percent of eighth graders, 13 percent of 10th graders and almost 17 percent of high school seniors had vaped in the past month.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has the power to regulate e-cigarettes, but is still figuring out how. Researchers are hopeful results of studies showing the harmful levels of toxic metals in e-cigarettes will help the FDA create rules to govern the devices.

"It's important for the FDA, the e-cigarette companies and vapers themselves to know that these heating coils, as currently made, seem to be leaking toxic metals, which then get into the aerosols that vapers inhale," said study senior author Ana María Rule, an assistant scientist in the Bloomberg School's Department of Environmental Health and Engineering.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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