healthHealth and Medicine

Toxic Heavy Metals Found In E-Cigarette Vapor


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockFeb 23 2018, 16:43 UTC

The debate about e-cigarette safety rages on. Lumen Photos/Shutterstock

In the latest to and fro on the science of e-cigarette safety, there’s fresh evidence to suggest that potentially unsafe levels of toxic metals could be making their way into e-cig vapors.

Scientists at John Hopkins University have found there’s lead, arsenic, chromium, manganese, and nickel in the vapor of modifiable vaping devices. As you can imagine, these are not good for you. Long-term exposure and persistent inhalation of the metals have been linked to lung, liver, immune, cardiovascular, and brain damage, and even cancers.


"It's important for the FDA, the e-cigarette companies, and vapers themselves to know that these heating coils, as currently made, seem to be leaking toxic metals – which then get into the aerosols that vapers inhale," senior author Ana María Rule, PhD, said in a statement.

In the study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers gathered 56 modifiable vaping devices from vape shops and vaping conventions around Baltimore. They then tested for the presence of 15 metals in the e-liquids in their coil-containing e-cigarette tanks, the refilling dispenser, and the vapor.

While they only found small amounts of toxic metal in the e-liquids alone, they discovered considerable amounts in the e-liquids that had been exposed to the heating coils. This indicates, the researchers say, that the metals almost “leak” from the metallic heating coils. They went on to show that the metals can then end up in the aerosols, i.e. the vapor, from the heated e-liquid.

"We don't know yet whether metals are chemically leaching from the coil or vaporizing when it's heated," Rule said. The researchers added that concentrations of the nasty metals appeared to be higher in e-cigarettes with more frequently changed heated coils, suggesting that fresher coils might be the problem.


Although inhaling these metals has been associated with health risks in previous studies, the researchers now hope to see whether this particular form of exposure can also have an effect on a person's health. 

"We've established with this study that there are exposures to these metals, which is the first step, but we need also to determine the actual health effects,” said Rule. 

The safety of vaping is a hot topic of debate, with a bundle of new studies on their safety coming out every single month, each seemingly saying something totally different from the last. Much more science needs to be done until the risks are crystal clear, but the current consensus is that e-cigarettes are most likely bad for your health, although they are considerably less bad for your health than smoking tobacco. 

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