E-cigarette liquid ingredient can cause 'popcorn lung' disease

A new Harvard study has found that many e-cigarette liquids contain an ingredient linked to 'popcorn lung,' a serious lung disease that got its name after popcorn plant workers developed the disease from exposure to artificial butter fumes. The chemical in question is diacetyl, and Harvard researchers found that more than 75-percent of the liquids and ecigs they tested contained the ingredient.

Diacetyl is a flavoring chemical found in the flavorings used in many types of e-cigarette liquids. As well, the researchers found two additional compounds described as "potentially harmful" in some liquid flavors. This chemical is known to cause bronchiolitis obliterans, more commonly called 'popcorn lung.' OSHA, for example, has long warned about the danger it poses to workers exposed to the chemical.

For this study, the researchers looked at 51 different liquid and ecig types available through "leading brands" for any of the three aforementioned chemicals. Forty-seven of the 51 tested flavors had at least one of the chemicals, with diacetyl being found 39 times, acetoin 46 times, and 2,3-pentanedione 23 times.

Electronic cigarettes have been a source of controversy since their introduction, but research efforts have largely agreed in their conclusions: in comparison to traditional tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes are less harmful. That shouldn't be mistaken for without harm, though. Those who imbibe may be better off choosing liquids without flavorings until the potentially harmful ingredients are phased out.

SOURCE: Harvard Gazette