Health & Studies

Metal Risk Overblown

Professor Soulet and Professor Sussman have produced a paper that is a critical review of studies claiming to have found heavy metal toxic risks in e-cigarette vapour

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Professor Soulet and Professor Sussman have produced a paper that is a critical review of studies claiming to have found heavy metal toxic risks in e-cigarette vapour. The pair are recognised as leading experts in vape related research. They found evidence that research teams which found a toxic risk had adopted poor research methodology that led to errors, produced results divorced from real world vaping, or overestimated exposure levels.

Heavy metals can poison by building up in the soft tissues of the body. Many of them are essential to bodily functions in small amounts but pose a hazard when they build up.

Primary metals that cause concern:

  • Aluminium
  • Antimony
  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Lithium
  • Manganese
  • Mercury
  • Nickel
  • Zinc

In 2015, Planet of the Vapes reported the first analysis of metal content studies conducted by Dr Farsalinos. He highlighted how the negative findings had been obtained by extrapolating raw data so that it didn’t reflect daily vaping.

Two years later, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health claimed to find five heavy metals in vapour – something they repeated the following year. The subject is one they became a favourite for anti-vape academics as it gave them an easy win when producing shock findings.

Their findings have led to press releases, media briefings, and ongoing negative media coverage that many believe flies in the face of facts and common sense.

For example, in 2019, coverage of a piece of heavy metals research “found in nicotine products” failed to point out that none of the samples were e-liquids or vape products. The press release and stories glossed over that the results came from legal quit smoking tablets, syrups, suspensions and chewing gum!

There is a clue in the name of the institution responsible for the bulk of the output as to why it is so negative: the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Professor Soulet and Professor Sussman focussed their research on 36 studies published from 2018, assessing the level of toxic heavy metals in e-cig vapour.

They commented: “We found that all studies reporting high metal levels (e.g., nickel, lead, chromium and manganese) surpassing toxicological markers suffered from serious methodological shortcomings.”

They identified serious shortcomings with the puffing protocols adopted by researchers - how machines take draws of vapour from electronic cigarettes (the frequency, duration, the type of liquid used and at what wattage the device is set).

These puffing protocols, just as Dr Farsalinos identified many years before, fail to replicate how vapers vape and therefore push the vaping experience to extremes that would leave a person hacking and spluttering.

After looking at the studies, Professor Soulet and Professor Sussman recommended that researchers adopt a standardised puffing protocol that replicates electronic cigarette use in the real world.

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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