Detoxing the Heavy Metal Vape Scare
Jonathan Swift 300 years ago observed that “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect.” (here) That is the story of e-cigarettes and vaping today.
Billions of dollars have been transferred from tobacco consumers to companies to the FDA in the form of user fees (here). The FDA, via the NIH, has transferred hundreds of millions to fund university research on tobacco use and effects, in order to provide a “scientific basis” for FDA regulations (here). With NIH making no attempt to hide our government’s objective – “a world free of tobacco use” (expressed here) – it is not surprising that much of the funded research and attendant publicity is biased to support the announced policy objective.
In March, anti-vaping researchers published a study claiming that metals in e-cigarette vapor are toxic when inhaled. While the media headlined the findings “dangerous” and “alarming”, and termed vape products “brain-damaging,” I explained in this blog that the metal doses delivered by e-cigarette liquids in this study are trivial. I estimated that an e-cigarette user could be exposed to excessive metal levels only by consuming high volumes of vape liquids. For example, vapers would have to use 15.4 liters (nearly four gallons) of liquid per day to achieve exposure to 2 micrograms of cadmium. (here)
I worked with Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a prestigious vaping researcher at Greece’s Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, the University of Patras and the National School of Public Health. The findings of our risk assessment analysis of the metals study were just published in the journal Inhalation Toxicology (abstract here).
The original study referenced U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safety limits that apply to 24-hour air exposure, or to workers breathing factory air for 8 to 10 hours. This standard is entirely invalid for e-cigarette analysis, as users do not inhale vapor continuously for such long periods of time.
Dr. Farsalinos and I applied more realistic federal standards, such as established regulatory safety limits for inhaled medicines. We calculated total daily exposure to metals by using an average daily vape liquid consumption of 3 to 5 milliliters (e.g., 3 to 5 grams, around 1 teaspoon).
The chart demonstrates that vapers would need to consume impossibly large volumes of liquid in order to exceed the safety limits for almost all metals. The one exception is nickel, which requires only 17 grams of liquid, but even that is over three times normal daily consumption.
In this case, truth is limping in eight months after widespread false alarms flew about metals in e-cigarette vapor. The Tale has had its Effect, but in the end, as Shakespeare assures us, truth will out.
Original author: Brad Rodu
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