Post Dated: 02/02/2015
A Look at Formaldehyde Levels Found in E-Cig Vapor
Recently we reported on a story out of Japan evaluating levels of formaldehyde released through vaping. Yesterday another study on this same topic was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and has been picked up by mainstream media. In this study, researchers measured formaldehyde using a variable voltage battery set at 3.3 and 5 volts. The vapor was collected and evaluated from an unnamed atomizer after a 4 second puff. The study found that at low voltage (3.3V) no formaldehyde was detected. However, at high voltage (5.0V), levels of formaldehyde were detected at levels up to 15 times higher than cigarette smoke.
Without further investigation on the methods and conclusion of this study, the results are very alarming. We feel it is our responsibility to dig deeper and provide the public with the whole truth.
One glaring problem with this publication is the researchers found formaldehyde hemiacetals (a combination of formaldehyde and alcohols) not formaldehyde. It is also important to know that formaldehyde is present everywhere. It is found in every person, smokers and nonsmokers alike, and can occur anytime hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen are in the presence of each other.
The truth is, this study is deeply flawed in many ways. In fact, it is highly irresponsible to publish a half truth and present it as science. For starters, as outlined by Dr. Konstantino Farsalinos, the authors of this study failed to mention (perhaps unknowingly) that volts do not measure thermal energy. Energy should be expressed in watts. Therefore, with the published information we do not know how many watts were applied to the atomizer.
Fortunately, Dr. Farsalinos used the information that was provided to approximate wattage settings. According to the study, 5mg of e-liquid were consumed at 3.3 volts. Based on measurements performed by Farsalinos, “…such consumption is observed at about 6-7 watts at 4-second puffs. Thus, the atomizer resistance is probably 1.6-1.8 ohms. This means that at 5 volts the energy was around 14-16 watts.”
So, what does this mean in terms of realistic user conditions? If the resistance was between 1.6-1.8 ohms and the wattage is somewhere between 14-16 watts, the vaporizer is being overheated and the wicking material is being burned. Essentially, these researchers are collecting data on a dry or burnt hit.
What the authors of this study aren’t accounting for is how easily this scenario is detected by the user. An electronic cigarette user would never vape at these settings. No one continuously vapes an overheated atomizer. The taste is unpleasant, to put it mildly. Therefore, no vaper will ever be exposed to the reported levels of formaldehyde.
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This method of measuring aldehydes in a lab environment is deceptive and unfair. The public deserves clear and concise results from scientific studies. If researchers continue to publish misleading findings and the media continues with its sensationalism the results can be damaging. How many smokers are afraid to switch to a device that could potentially save their lives?
For a more detailed breakdown on this study, I urge you to read Dr. Farsalinos’ response by following this link: www.ecigarette-research.com