A study that made the rounds last month claiming to find poisonous metals in e-liquid vapor has once again been decried as purposefully misleading
If you were paying attention to the mainstream media at any point last month, you probably heard a story about a new study claiming to discover hazardous levels of toxic substances in used e-liquid. The study, called Metal Concentrations in E-Cigarette Liquid and Aerosol Samples: The Contribution of Metallic Coils, was published in Environmental Health Perspectives and supposedly wanted to test vaporizers in real-world conditions. After examining the preferred equipment of 56 vapers, they claimed that unsafe levels of several substances were detected, including nickel, lead, chromium, and arsenic.
According to the researchers, these metals could be coming from the coils, as they found higher levels in devices that had their coils changed more often. Their findings were enough for the Johns Hopkins researchers to conclude that “heating coils, as currently made, seem to be leaking toxic metals.” Given the severity of the claims, it’s no wonder that these results became widely spread. But after the dust settled, several respected tobacco control experts have come to the defense of vaping.
The first researcher who came out against these results was the renowned Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos. Dr. Farsalinos has become famous in the vaping community for conducting and releasing “replication studies” that attempt to recreate the results of questionable vaping studies. Last fall he released two replication studies that showed serious flaws in research methodology. While his full replication of this particular study hasn’t been finished yet, Dr. Farsalinos was sure to make a public comment about the toxic metals study on his Facebook page.
“‘Significant amount’ of metals the authors reported they found were measured in ug/kg. In fact, they are so low that for some cases (chromium and lead) I calculated that you need to vape more than 100 ml per day in order to exceed the FDA limits for daily intake from inhalational medications.” Dr. Farsalinos shows that the safety limits referenced by the Johns Hopkins researchers are only accurate if every breath taken in a day was vapor. When you account for the fact that users are only inhaling vapor for relatively short periods of time, these scary results completely fall apart.
Now another respected researcher is backing up Dr. Farsalinos’ concerns. Dr. David Dawit, who is the Chief Scientific Officer at Eosscientific believes the “toxic metals” study is full of misleading and misrepresented information, calling it “Fraught With Methodological Flaws.” Eosscientific is an e-liquid manufacturer, making some people question his bias, but ultimately few people are more familiar with the nature of e-liquids than a researcher whose career deals with their safety and efficacy. Dr. Dawit completely agrees with Dr. Farsalinos’ stance, that the referenced safety limits cannot be applied to vaping, as it requires constant exposure. In addition to that, Dr. Dawit questions the results because it appears they purposefully omitted or changed portions of their research method that could have made it much easier to replicate.
When one extremely negative study comes out against vaping, it seems like the entire mainstream media jumps on the opportunity to lampoon e-cigarettes as the next big public health crisis. It’s no wonder why then so many people believe there isn’t any research indicating that vaping is safer. But this is simply not the case. In fact, there’s tons of peer reviewed evidence that vaping is actually one of the best tools we currently have in the fight against smoking.
One of the most significant studies was released by Public Health England, the federal health agency for England. Originally published back in 2015, it looked at years of research and concluded that vaping is at least 95% safer than traditional cigarettes. Then just last October, a study was published in the Journal of Aerosol Science that found the excess lifetime cancer risk of vapers is around 57,000 times lower than that of a smoker.
On top of the evidence showing the dramatic harm reduction value of e-cigarettes, there’s also been a steady stream of information that concludes vaping is also one of, if not the best, smoking cessation tools we have. Researchers at the University of Louisville tested the success of several different smoking cessation methods, from cold turkey all the way to prescription drugs. They concluded that vaping was more likely to help a smoker quit for good than any other tested method.
It’s a real shame that a single inflammatory study can cause such a stir in the media. Especially when there’s been so much positive research published that goes essentially unreported. What makes it even worse is when negative studies suffer from clear and obvious flaws but are still touted as the gospel. A recent study out of Georgetown found that over five million smokers lives could have been saved across the US if they had made the switch to e-cigarettes. Meanwhile, studies like the toxic metals report are only making it harder for legitimate and positive research from gaining any traction. If we as a society truly value ending the smoking epidemic once and for all, we should be focused more on improvements than selling the most newspapers or getting the most clicks. This is purely and simply a public health issue, and one of the best tools we have to combat it shouldn’t suffer from baseless scrutiny. We must improve the public perception of vaping if we sincerely hope to accomplish anything.
Did you hear about the “toxic metals” study, if so where? Do you think it’s easier to sell negative stories than positive ones, if so why? What can we do to convince the general public that vaping is a much safer alternative to smoking? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.