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E-cigarette liquid could cause severe respiratory illness, study shows

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Posted at 7:36 PM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-08 21:36:11-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A new study out of Harvard University indicates an artificial flavoring used in some e-cigarette liquids could cause severe respiratory illness, but local vaping advocates say more studies need to be done to make that claim.

The Harvard study looked at 51 types of flavored e-cigarette liquids sold and tested for the presence of known hazardous respiratory chemicals. Researchers say a least one chemical was detected in 47 of the flavors tested.

One of those chemicals is Diacetyl.

“Diacetyl is not a surprise,” said Brittany Karzen, program marketing manager for Utah Department of Health Tobacco Prevention and Control. “It’s something that has been researched for a long time; it was tied a long time ago to people who worked in microwave popcorn facilities.”

The respiratory illness is commonly called “popcorn lung,” but is a debilitating respiratory disease.

Karzen said the Harvard study goes a long way in helping consumers understand a product that has gone widely untested since it came on the market about eight years ago.

“They say these e-cigarettes are safe because everything is FDA approved,” Karzen said. “And while in a lot of cases the ingredients they are using are FDA approved, they’re FDA approved for consumption, not necessarily inhaling them and getting them in your lungs.”

Tad Jensen, president of the Utah Smoke Free Association, said while he agrees the study is helpful in understanding potential health risks, the findings are a bit unfair in targeting vape liquids.

The Harvard study shows the chemicals are present in the product, but doesn’t look at long-term effects.

“The people that were diagnosed with popcorn lung were factory workers and they were inhaling a powder of it for eight to 12 hours a day,” Jensen said. “There haven’t really been any studies on essentially how much is safe for the human body to consume, especially being vaporized.”

Jensen said Diacetyl can be found in actual cigarettes at much higher levels than in e-liquid. To read the whole study, click here: ehp.niehs.nih.gov/15-10185./