Reviews. Resources. Specifications.

Statement 2: Chemicals

The second statement "Release acetic acid, acetone, isoprene, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde into the air" is a mis-leading statement that originated as this report:

A study published in Indoor Air from the Fraunhofer Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut in Germany examined second-hand emissions from several e-cigarettes in a human exposure chamber.  Each e-cigarette was puffed 6 times and data were collected for a conventional cigarette, also puffed 6 times.

While the e-cigarette produced lower levels of toxins in the air for nonsmokers to breathe than the conventional cigarette, there were still elevated levels of acetic acid, acetone, isoprene, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, averaging around 20% of what the conventional cigarette put into the air.

Thus, while not as polluting as a conventional cigarette, the e-cigarettes are putting detectable levels of several significant carcinogens and toxins in the air. 

No one should have to breathe these chemicals, whether they come out of a conventional or e-cigarette.  No one should smoke e-cigarettes indoors that are free of other forms of tobacco smoke pollution.

While this does sound ominous, it is noted that all chemicals claimed to be expelled from e-cigarettes are the same proportions as a non-smoker exhalating first thing in the morning, and again after tests later though the day (see the last comment on this page). A doctor's direct reply to the above commentary is quite contrary:

S Glantz, while your intentions seem noble, if not a bit condescending, your stated facts in response to the study are not completely accurate, and your comments do not portray what the study found.  For example, the levels of acetic acids, acetone, and isoprene are in levels 10,000 times lower than the average person would receive in a room heated with a central forced-air heating system, not 20% of what a cigarette would put into the air. You need to re-read the study.

Additionally, there is more formaldehyde absorbed into the skin by washing your hands just one time with the average restroom soap from a restaurant or other public establishment that one would receive being in a room full of e-cigarette users for an entire year. 

While it is true that some inexpensive e-cigarettes do use some chemicals which may contain higher levels of some chemicals and perhaps carcinogens, generally speaking, the base chemical used in standard liquids for an e-cigarette are purified propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin.  These are the same chemicals used to give asthma and pulmonary patients breathing and nebulizer treatments.  These liquids allow the breakdown of the nicotine into the body the same as they allow a nebulizer to deliver drugs (NABA and SAIDS) to pulmonary patients. 

Instead of continually trying to vilify those who are addicted to nicotine, let's first try congratulating them on at least dumping the horrible habit of tobacco use, which puts out 400+ additional, truly harmful chemicals to the smoker, and those around them.  Instead of just screaming "BAN IT!" to anyone who will listen, why not try a truthful, educative approach first?  Just don't try to educate by trumping up the facts, simply because it bruises your dislike of their habit.   

Dr. Peter Protero
Dr. of Pulmonology

And, a further report shows quite clearly that the first report is being abused and is misleading ... it actually shows that all the chemicals claimed to be exhaled and measured after e-cigarette use are also the same chemicals exhaled and measured from non-smokers:

Not as polluting as ordinary breathing

Diskin, et al. conducted a study of the concentrations of the common breath metabolites ammonia, acetone, isoprene, ethanol and acetaldehyde in the breath of five subjects over a period of 30 days. “Breath samples were taken and analysed in the early morning on arrival at the laboratory.”

It is enlightening to compare their results for the three compounds that correspond to three of the six e-cigarette exhaled vapor compounds in the Indoor Airstudy.

The Indoor Air study measured a concentration of 25 mcg/m3 of Acetone, which converts to 10.39 PPB. In Diskin’s study, Acetone ranged from 293-870 PPB.

The Indoor Air study found 10 mcg/m3 of Isoprene, which converts to 3.54 PPB. Compare to 55-171 PPB in Diskin’s study.

The Indoor Air study found 3 mcg/m3 of Acetaldehyde, which converts to 1.64 PPB, compared with 2-5 PPB in Diskin’s study.

Therefore for these three compounds, bystanders would be in greater danger if exposed to exhaled breath of ordinary non-smoking, non-vaping citizens.

Three additional compounds were noted in the Indoor Air study. The quantities were reported as micrograms per cubic meter by the German researchers.  OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) are expressed as milligrams per cubic meter.  To convert to mg/m3, divide the mcg value by 1000.

2-Butanone (MEK) = 0.002 mg/m3  (OSHA PEL = 590 mg/m3)

Acetic acid = 0.014 mg/m3  (OSHA PEL = 25 mg/m3)

Formaldehyde  = 0.016 mg/m3  (OSHA PEL = 0.661 mg/m3)

When all the scientific data are considered, we must conclude that bystanders are in no danger whatsoever from exhaled vapor, as the highest concentration measured represents a mere 2.4% of the OSHA PEL, and the remaining 5 compounds represent a fraction of 1% of the OSHA PEL.


There is a slide that I am missing that stated other statements I took particular exception to. One of those is that electronic cigarettes are banned in Canada.