Electronic Cigarettes Release Cancer-Causing Chemical

Are electronic cigarettes safe? Doctors say there are too many unknowns to be sure, and a new study reinforces their concerns.

Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine finds that when an electronic cigarette is operated at a high voltage, it produces formaldehyde in concentrations much higher than regular cigarettes create. The analysis didn’t find that formaldehyde is released when using the device set at a low voltage.

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that can increase the risk of leukemia, lymphomas, and nasal and sinus cancers, says Jonathan Boltax, M.D., a doctor at the Huntsman Cancer Institute who specializes in lung cancer.

“That’s been seen in people who are working in industrial areas with increased exposure,” he says. People who smoke electronic cigarettes could be exposing themselves to this risk in addition to other unknown health effects.

“The perception that they’re safe is incorrect,” Boltax says. The new research highlights how little we know about the health risks that could be hiding in electronic cigarettes, he says.

“The real situation is, we don’t know what the long-term effects of e-cigarettes are,” Boltax says. “We’re not going to know for 10 to 20 years what the adverse effects are.”

And it’s not just adults who are putting themselves at risk. A growing number of Utah teens are using electronic cigarettes. According to a Utah Department of Health report, 12% of Utah teens had tried electronic cigarettes in the previous year.

The authors of the new research point out that the way electronic cigarettes deliver formaldehyde could be even more dangerous. “Formaldehyde-releasing agents may deposit more efficiently in the respiratory tract than gaseous formaldehyde, and so they could carry a higher slope factor for cancer,” they write.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The actual study indicates that the usage is unusual, the “compounds” are not released at lower voltage, and – even better – the “compounds” detected are uninvestigated and may be significantly LESS dangerous than the formaldehyde it is being compared to.

    You guys have really started to be a disappointing pool of reprinted press releases and headline-grabbing inaccuracies..

  2. “The analysis didn’t find that formaldehyde is released when using the device set at a low voltage.”

    Low voltage is how they’re actually used in real life by actual people!

    So, why wasn’t the above quote the headline? The report clearly states that formaldehyde was produced only at very high temperatures, so high in fact, that the vapor would taste so awful that nobody would inhale it.

    The high formaldehyde and associated harm finding is like having someone drink 2 quarts of whiskey in 10 minutes, noting their death from alcohol poisoning, and then hysterically declaring whiskey dangerous.

    The study is actually great news for people who use these devices.

    Why wasn’t it framed in that manner?

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