Peering through the mist: What does the chemistry of contaminants in electronic cigarettes tell us about health risks?

Posted 22nd August 2014 by Toby Kilroy
A summary of the work and findings of Doctor Igor Burstyn.

What did Doctor Burstyn do?

  • Rather than conducting a scientific investigation, Burstyn conducted a research review whereby he collected and analysed information already in the public domain.

Why should I believe what he says?

  • He has an awesome beard.

What did he look at?

  • Burstyn reviewed all of the data concerned with the make up of e-liquids and its chemistry.
  • He compared research findings, advisory limits and standards agreed for safe levels of exposure.
  • He made assumptions for worst-case scenarios meaning that he would assume the device was being used continually and that high nicotine content juice was used at a high temperature.

Where do the worst-case scenarios exist?

  • These would be encountered in places like chemical production plants. The maximum safe exposure level in the production of PG liquid, for example.

How is this measured?

Pure Eliquids
  • He refers to the threshold limit value (TLV), which is the absolute maximum anyone should expose himself or herself to.
  • In the worst case scenario it is the maximum an employer would legally be able to allow their employee to be exposed to in the chemical plant.

So, the worst-case scenario is still a legal and safe level?

  • Yes, we can think of the worst-case scenario as still being considered as a safe level by industry standards, allowing their employee to remain healthy without any adverse effect to their health.

Does this cover all parts of e-liquid?

  • No, Burstyn states that there is no industry standard for the inhalation of nicotine, no job requires it.
  • He only looked at the other chemicals that travel into the lungs along with the nicotine.

How do we know what a safe level of nicotine is then?

  • Burstyn reminds the reader that a nicotine user will self-dose to their required level.
  • Vapers automatically adjust the duration of daily vaping or through selecting nicotine content in the liquid.
  • Vapers will cease vaping when the desire for nicotine has been met.

What assumptions did Burstyn make?

  • Vaping involves breathing in a small volume of vapour along with a large quantity of air.
  • The amount of vapour taken into the lungs is minute compared to the volume of air breathed in.
  • A vaper would vape for eight hours.
  • A vaper would take 150 individual puffs during this eight-hour period.
  • 8 litres of air would be breathed in every minute.
  • That each time the vaper used the device they would obtain an equal amount of vape containing the same level of parts

But we don’t know what’s in e-liquid!

The Electronic Cigarette Company
  • Burstyn uncovered over NINE THOUSAND studies covering the chemical composition of e-liquid.

What were his results and conclusions?

  • There is no data that supports the position that vaping e-liquid presents a health risk.
  • The levels of all the chemicals that make up e-liquid are well below the TLVs.
  • There is no cause for concern over the production or levels of acrolein or formaldehyde.
  • The levels of tobacco nitrosamines are in such trace quantities that they do not pose any threat to health.
  • The levels of tobacco nitrosamines imply no real risk for cancer.
  • The levels of metals are at such small levels too that they to pose no harm

But what about those who tell us there is a danger?

  • Burstyn states that those claiming they a danger exists are exaggerating or misrepresenting their findings.

Does he suggest any further action?

  • Further research into the vaping of PG and VG in the quantities that vapers do.
  • The creation of a machine to replicate the action of vaping so that the vape can be studied in more detail to identify compounds present.

Where can I get a beard like that?

  • Unfortunately beards are not easy to come by.


Vape Club
Top Photo credit: gagilas via photopin cc

 Toby Kilroy
Article by Toby Kilroy
Toby set up Planet of the Vapes in 2012 after another major vaping site was taken down. With a history in web development and running websites for clients he was well placed to use his previous knowledge to build and run a site on the scale of POTV.
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