Researchers Warn of Toxic Chemicals in Popular Vape Flavors

Mint Vape

New research from RCSI University reveals that heating e-liquids in vapes produces harmful substances, necessitating urgent public health policies on flavored vapes. Using AI, the study identified numerous hazardous chemicals, indicating potential long-term health risks and the need for comprehensive regulation.

New research has identified potentially harmful substances produced when e-liquids in vaping devices are heated for inhalation. Published in Scientific Reports, the study underscores the urgent need for public health policies addressing flavored vapes.

The research team at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dublin, used artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate the effects of heating e-liquid flavor chemicals found in nicotine vapes. They included all 180 known e-liquid flavor chemicals, predicting the new compounds formed when these substances are heated within a vaping device immediately prior to inhalation.

The analysis revealed the formation of many hazardous chemicals including 127 which are classified as ‘Acute Toxic’, 153 as ‘Health Hazards’, and 225 as ‘Irritants’. Notably, these included a group of chemicals called volatile carbonyls (VCs) which are known to pose health risks. Sources for VCs were predicted to be the most popular fruit, candy, and dessert-flavored products.

Lead author, Professor Donal O’Shea, Professor of Chemistry and Head of Department, said the findings are very concerning: “We wanted to understand, before it’s too late, the likely impact flavored vapes are having on the health of the growing number of vapers. Our findings indicate a significantly different profile of chemical hazards compared to what we are familiar with from traditional tobacco smoking.”

“It is plausible that we are on the cusp of a new wave of chronic diseases that will emerge 15 to 20 years from now due to these exposures. We hope this research will help people make more informed choices and contribute to the conversation on the potential long-term health risks and the regulation of vaping, which this research suggests should be comprehensive.”

Complexity of Vaping Products

The study also highlighted the complexities introduced by the huge array of flavors available in vaping products, which include 180 different chemicals blended in various amounts. This cocktail of chemicals, primarily derived from the food industry where they have a good safety record for specific uses, were never intended to be heated to high temperatures for inhalation.

As vaping devices vary widely and are often user-customized, the temperature control and resulting chemical reactions can differ, increasing the unpredictability of potential health risks. This variability requires further research using the AI framework established in this study, which could also lead to the development of risk reports for individual flavors, providing an informative public health policy resource.

Considering the popularity of flavored vapes among non-smoking teenagers and young adults, understanding the long-term effects of these products on public health, morbidity, and mortality is crucial. This study demonstrates that without comprehensive regulation, as we try to treat the nicotine addictions of older tobacco smokers, there is a substantial risk of transferring new health issues to younger generations.

Reference: “Forecasting vaping health risks through neural network model prediction of flavor pyrolysis reactions” by Akihiro Kishimoto, Dan Wu and Donal F. O’Shea, 8 May 2024, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-024-59619-x

The research was carried out in conjunction with IBM Research – Tokyo and was supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Irish Research Council through the SFI-IRC Pathway Programme for Dr. Dan Wu.

1 Comment on "Researchers Warn of Toxic Chemicals in Popular Vape Flavors"

  1. Hottan Foggie | May 25, 2024 at 12:36 pm | Reply

    This is the beginning of the kind of research needed. e-Liquid users I’ve known are aware of dangers of dark flavours (coffee, chocolate, acetylpyridine) and buttery flavors (diacetyl etc.), among others I don’t remember, but that is low-resolution information coming from experience and narrow-scope studies. AI predictive analysis of the probably chemicals from pyrolysis helps identify chemicals to avoid in flavorings. The next steps are identifying the actual chemicals resulting, studying the possible or actual dangers of inhaling those chemicals, and finally applying the research to products that are actually for sale.

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