Flavour Toxicity

Posted 29th July 2019 by Dave Cross
Konstantinos Farsalinos and George Lagoumintzis have responded to a paper warning about the danger of flavours in eliquids. Their paper has been published in Harm Reduction Journal and pointed out that the quantity of a substance is important – not its presence.

"All things are poison, and nothing is without poison, the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison" - Paracelsus

Farsalinos said: “A recent study analysed 122 e-cigarette liquids from the European Market and reported that toxic flavouring compounds are used in e-cigarette liquids. We examined the toxicity classification of the flavourings using the maximum levels reported in that study. We found that only 1 out of 14 flavourings exceeded the toxicity level (at the maximum concentration!).”

The study he refers to is one by a team led by Constantine Vardavas. Their paper concluded: “To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to identify the existence of respiratory irritants within e-cigarette refill liquids across EU MS, an area of potential concern for respiratory health. Our findings indicate potentially hazardous substances in e-cigarettes, contrary to Article 20 of the TPD, which clearly states that with the exception of nicotine, only ingredients that do not pose a risk to human health in heated or unheated form should be used in the liquid. For this reason and in order to ensure the protection of European consumer's health, monitoring of e-cigarette additives is necessary and should be addressed urgently.”

Farsalinos and Lagoumintzis point out that spreading fear about vaping and pushing a traditional smoking cessation product approach ignores a key fact: “While pharmacotherapies for smoking cessation have been developed for several years, their popularity and success rate is limited. As a result, tobacco harm reduction products have been developed, with electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) being the most popular and widely used globally.”

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Also, they add: “Surveys have shown that the vast majority of e-cigarette users use flavoured liquids, change flavours frequently, and report that flavour variability is important in their effort to quit and stay off cigarettes.”

The pair point out that although Vardavas’ team identified and quantified flavouring chemicals, “the study did not calculate the potential toxicity and relevant toxicity classification based on the concentrations of the chemicals.”

They say: “The study found that only one flavouring compound was present at a maximum concentration that would result in toxicity classification and the need to introduce specific warning labels based on established regulations. For all other compounds, the maximum concentrations were far below the levels needed to result in any toxicity classification.”

“Toxicity classification is not based on the presence of a chemical alone but on the amount used in the final product and how this compares with concentrations associated with toxicity. Similarly, it is not unexpected that e-cigarette liquids contain chemicals that are classified for toxicity since flavourings used in these products are derived from the food industry. While the EU dictates that no chemical posing health risk (besides nicotine) should be used in e-cigarette liquids, it is expected that the same principles are applied to e-cigarettes as to all other consumer products.”

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  • “Respiratory irritants within e-cigarette refill liquids are a cause for concern for respiratory health” by Vardavas et al. – [link]
  • “Toxicity classification of e-cigarette flavouring compounds based on European Union regulation: analysis of findings from a recent study” by Farsalinos and Lagoumintzis – [link]

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker
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