Electronic cigarettes pose health risks: study

Published: 04/12/2010 05:00



Electronic cigarettes, which are
increasingly used worldwide, are unsafe and pose health risks, a new study

To determine the health effects of
e-cigarettes, researchers at the University of California (UC), Riverside
evaluated five e- cigarette brands and found design flaws, lack of adequate
labeling, and several concerns about quality control and health issues.

They conclude that e-cigarettes are
potentially harmful and urge regulators to consider removing e-cigarettes from
the market until their safety is adequately evaluated.

The findings were reported in
EurekAlert.org, a website of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science (AAAS).

Unlike conventional cigarettes,
which burn tobacco, e- cigarettes vaporize nicotine, along with other compounds
present in the cartridge, in the form of aerosol created by heating, but do not
produce the thousands of chemicals and toxicants created by tobacco combustion.

Nothing is known, however, about the
chemicals present in the aerosolized vapors emanating from e-cigarettes.

“As a result, some people believe
that e-cigarettes are a safe substitute for conventional cigarettes,” said Prue
Talbot, the director of UC Riverside’s Stem Cell Center, whose lab led the
research. “However, there are virtually no scientific studies on e- cigarettes
and their safety. Our study - one of the first studies to evaluate e-cigarettes
- shows that this product has many flaws, which could cause serious public
health problems in the future if the flaws go uncorrected.”

The findings from the study include:

– Batteries, atomizers, cartridges,
cartridge wrappers, packs and instruction manuals lack important information
regarding e- cigarette content, use and essential warnings;

– E-cigarette cartridges leak,
which could expose nicotine, an addictive and dangerous chemical, to children,
adults, pets and the environment;

– Currently, there are no methods
for proper disposal of e- cigarettes products and accessories, including
cartridges, which could result in nicotine contamination from discarded
cartridges entering water sources and soil, and adversely impacting the
environment; and

– The manufacture, quality control,
sales, and advertisement of e-cigarettes are unregulated.

“More research on e-cigarettes is
crucially needed to protect the health of e-cigarette users and even those who
do not use e- cigarettes,” said Kamlesh Asotra, a research administrator at the
University of California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP).

“Contrary to the claims of the
manufacturers and marketers of e- cigarettes being ’safe,’ in fact, virtually
nothing is known about the toxicity of the vapors generated by these

“Until we know any thing about the
potential health risks of the toxins generated upon heating the
nicotine-containing content of the e-cigarette cartridges, the ’safety’ claims
of the manufacturers are dubious at best,” Asotra said.


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