Irfan Rahman, a biochemist at University of Rochester in New York, is well-versed in conducting studies regarding the potential harm caused by pollutants, including e-cigarettes. Rahman told Science News in a statement last year that many teens and young adults admitted to dry and scratchy throats when vaping. For some, vaping caused coughing and mouth bleeds.
“We’ve got to start looking into these things,” said Rahman, “and see what’s going on.”
E-cigarettes are devices made up of a battery, an internal heating coil, and a liquid cartridge. When the liquid is exposed to the hot coil, it becomes vapor that the user inhales.
The e-liquids themselves seem harmless enough, a mix of chemicals that create different flavors, most containing nicotine. The “e-juice” is usually labeled as a food-grade liquid, which flags the product as safe enough to eat. But once the liquid is heated and vaporized, the chemical composition is changed. Researchers say that change in composition makes the vapor much more toxic than the e-liquid itself.
Most e-liquids have also been found to contain diacetyl, a chemical used in flavorings to mimic the creamy taste of butter. It’s a chemical that can be found in baking mixes, candy, alcohol, flavored yogurt, snack foods, cheese, and coffee. According to the FDA, diacetyl is safe when consumed in trace amounts. But when it is inhaled, the person is at risk for developing serious lung diseases such as bronchiolitis obliterans.
Rahman and other researchers have begun to test what e-cigarette vapor does to the cells of the mouth. Different types of human mouth cells were grown in a lab, focusing on cells that make up the gums. When the cells were exposed to e-cigarette vapor, the scientists found that the DNA of these cells was altered.
The cells also began to show signs of inflammation.
The inflammatory markers were only present in flavored e-liquids, which are not present in tobacco smoke. Researchers are concerned that these inflammatory markers and risk of altered DNA of mouth cells is unique only to flavored vapor.
According to Maciej Goniewicz, a toxicologist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, inflammatory markers “tell our bodies that something is going wrong. They send signals that these cells have been damaged.”
In a study published by Goniewicz late last year, bronchial tube cells are also affected in a similar way, with flavored e-cigarette vapors causing similar signs of inflammation comparable to what happens in mouth cells.
Source: Science News