Harvard Study Confirms E-Cigarettes Contain Flavoring Chemicals Associated with Life-Threatening Respiratory Disease

In June 2016, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published the results of their findings in a study that analyzed  the vapor from 51 types of flavored e-cigarettes sold by leading e-cigarette brands. The primary goal of the study, which was entitled Flavoring Chemicals in E-Cigarettes: Diacetyl, 2,3-Pentanedione, and Acetoin in a Sample of 51 Products, Including Fruit-, Candy-, and Cocktail-Flavored E-Cigarettes ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp.1510185, was to determine whether diacetyl and other flavoring compounds were present in the vapors released from flavored e-cigarettes.  The study noted that there were more than 7,000 different types of e-cigarette flavorings available in 2016.

Flavoring Chemicals Linked to a Non-Reversible Lung Disease

The researchers focused on the use of three flavoring chemicals that have been linked to a life-threatening lung disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans, often referred to as “popcorn lung.” The three chemicals, diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione and acetoin, have been used extensively in the food flavoring industry for decades.  All three have already been identified as a potentially serious risk for food workers routinely exposed to the airborne vapors of these flavoring chemicals.

Popcorn lung got its name from a medical condition that first identified in people who worked in microwave popcorn plants factories.  The workers inhaled diacetyl, which is used extensively as an ingredient in butter flavoring. Diacetyl and its substitute, 2,3-pentanedione, are widely used flavoring compounds. There have been extensive reports of serious respiratory disease and decreased lung function in employees exposed to diacetyl.  The use of diacetyl, however, is not limited to the popcorn industry.

In addition to vaping liquids and e-cigarettes, diacetyl is used as a flavoring ingredient in bakery products, dairy products, and snack foods. It is used in the flavor formulation of many flavors, including strawberry, caramel, hazelnut, and butterscotch.

Laboratory Analysis of Vaper Yields Alarming Results

In order to identify the presence and concentrations of chemicals to which a user might be exposed when vaping, the researchers captured the discharged vapors of e-cigarettes and analyzed those vapors for the presence of diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, and acetoin.

The results of the study were startling: At least one of three flavoring chemicals was detected in 47 of 51 (92%) of the unique flavors tested. Diacetyl was detected in 39 of the 51 flavors tested, and 2,3-Pentanedione and acetoin were detected in 23 and 46 of the 51 flavors tested, respectively.

“The health concerns related to inhaling diacetyl and other flavoring 

chemicals are now well recognized by OSHA and the flavoring industry.”

__ Study of Flavoring Chemicals in E-Cigarettes by

    the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 

The study concluded by confirming the presence of diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione and acetoin, in over 92% of the flavored e-cigarettes sampled. In light of the known association between diacetyl and popcorn lung among workers who inhaled vapors containing diacetyl, the study’s authors recommended urgent action through further additional research and studies to identify the extent of exposure to diacetyl and related flavoring compounds in e-cigarettes.

Seeking Legal Representation for a Claim Against a Manufacturer

When makers of e-cigarettes, vaping devices and e-liquids manufacture and market products that cause harm, injured victims and their families have the opportunity to seek justice in the courts against those responsible for the injury. An injured individual or, in many cases, their family members, can bring an action to obtain compensation for damages they have suffered. 

If you intend to file a lawsuit to protect your rights, you should contact a product liability lawyer as soon as possible. Statutes of limitations vary by state, and failing to file within the prescribed time period can be fatal to your lawsuit regardless of how compelling your evidence. An attorney will ensure that your lawsuit is filed prior to the expiration of the appropriate statute of limitations.  The attorney will also investigate your case and compile evidence that will be used as proof in the lawsuit. These efforts will help prevent evidence from being damaged, lost or otherwise rendered inadmissible in court.