Health & Studies

Heavy Metal

Anti-vape campaigners are touting the dangers of heavy metals in vapour to the media again, but does it pose the problems they claim?

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Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, Stanford University, is running around television studios, telling the American public about the danger posed by electronic cigarettes. Scientifically illiterate reporters are whipping up fear over heavy metals in vape once more – but does it pose the danger they claim and are ecigs unique in posing this risk?

Bonnie Halpern-Felsher has appeared in POTV news articles many times. She produced a literature review that ignored positive studies and relied on exceptionally flawed pieces of work by the likes of Jessica Barrington-Trimis [link], manufactured findings about teen attitudes [link], and claimed adults don’t need flavoured eliquids in order to quit smoking [link].

Speaking to one news channel, she told them that lead, cadmium and nickel can be found inside most e-cigarettes and over-hyped fears regarding nicotine strength. At no point did anybody have the sense to question the volume of heavy metal products in vape and compare it to other nicotine products.

Recently, Dubai-based researchers looked at 13 products manufactured in the United Arab Emirates and 26 products imported from Saudi Arabia, Greece, Egypt, Germany, Australia, USA, Jordan, Switzerland, France, Kuwait, Czeck Republic and India. They analysed the samples for the presence of heavy metals.

They write: “Amongst the 39 samples of pharmaceutical dosage form all exhibited a positive response for lead, cadmium and nickel except three products whose Ni levels were below quantification level.”

Pretty bad news, except for the fact that they weren’t eliquids, they were looking at “brands of pharmaceutical dosage forms that include 28 tablets, 4 syrups, 6 suspensions and one chewing gum.”

No news outlet has reported this study – moreover, nothing has been said about the conclusions that “all the products were safe to consume and contained lower level of lead, cadmium and nickel than Oral Permitted Daily Exposure levels”.

Dose makes the poison; an important adage that anti-vape campaigners are far too ready to forget when it counters their arguments.

Eleni Kamilari, Konstantinos Farsalinos, Konstantinos Poulas, Christos Kontoyannis and Malvina Orkoula looked at heavy metals in ecig vapour last year. Farsalinos has previously concluded: “Based on currently available data, overall exposure to metals from electronic cigarette (EC) use is not expected to be of significant health concern for smokers switching to EC use, but is an unnecessary source of exposure for never-smokers.”

Farsalinos’ team looked for the presence of cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), arsenic (As) and chromium (Cr). They identified the presence of all of the heavy metals in the eliquid except cadmium and arsenic.

They concluded that the concentrations were lower than the limits allowed by regulatory authorities for inhalational medicines, and that the levels identified were considerably lower than those found in cigarette smoke.

Bonnie Halpern-Felsher has never referred to this study.


  • “Lead, Cadmium and Nickel Contents of Some Medicinal Agents” by Nessa, Khan, and Shawish – [link]
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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