WASHINGTON — Many people who smoke electronic cigarettes maintain they are much safer than regular tobacco products. But some researchers are urging extreme caution.
The latest study to highlight the dangers of e-cigs comes out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, an Energy Department facility on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley.
Researchers there wanted to pinpoint the possible causes of worrisome chemicals in e-cigarette emissions. They tested two solvents commonly used in e-cigarette liquid, heated them and then checked the vapor for signs of toxins.
The solvents — propylene glycol and glycerine — seemed to morph when heated, creating emissions laced with dozens of harmful chemical compounds, such as acrolein and formaldehyde.
But that’s not all they noticed. The research team also reported that many variables affected the intensity of the emissions, such as temperature and the age of the device.
The scientists said their findings could be an important tool for the Food and Drug Administration, which will start regulating e-cigarettes on Aug. 8. The information may also be useful for e-cigarette manufacturers seeking to create a safer product.
Members of the research team say their study shows that e-cigarettes are hardly benign, and while they may be an OK option for longtime cigarette smokers who just can’t quit, they are not good choice for the rest of us.
As one Berkeley Lab researcher put it: “Regular cigarettes are super unhealthy — e-cigarettes are just plain unhealthy.”