Testing Times for Eliquid

Posted 3rd July 2015 by Dave Cross
Doctors, researchers, manufacturers and vapers are focussed on the presence of diacetyl and acetyl propionyl in e-juice over the last month. Testing of liquids by Vaporshark revealed a set of disturbing results. Hot on the heels came news that Five Pawns themselves have sat on data demonstrating, according to Doctor Farsalinos, unacceptably high levels of toxins. Many are wondering what is going on?

“… And we started testing for diacetyl, primarily, about a year ago. And it started out really small; there were just a few companies… And actually the people who started doing the testing first were not even manufacturers they were distributors. They were selling other peoples’ products. They were just doing routine product stewardship to make sure that what they were selling was safe…. And then, about the first of the year, we started testing for eliquid manufacturers, and then we started doing testing for ECTA in Canada, and I want to give a big shout-out for those guys, because: they identified this problem a long time ago, and they are 100 percent diacetyl free and acetyl propionyl free, in Canada. It’s absolutely amazing. They pulled every product off the market that contained these. They test everything. It’s really amazing, and I would love to see everyone go this route.”

So said Gene Gillman of Enthalpy Labs, back in September 2014, on the Click Bang show when a furore blew up over Suicide Bunny’s eliquids. It followed Doctor Farsalinos testing over 159 samples for the presence of inhalation toxins.

Farsalinos’ team said diacetyl and acetyl propionyl “were found in a large proportion of sweet-flavoured EC liquids, with many of them exposing users to higher than safety levels. Their presence in EC liquids represents an avoidable risk. Proper measures should be taken by EC liquid manufacturers and flavouring suppliers to eliminate these hazards from the products.”

That was Farsalinos calling for juice manufacturers to work towards safer liquids nine months ago. But what are diacetyl and acetyl propionyl?

Acetyl propionyl was created as a version of diacetyl in order to replace it, as it was a known problem. Diacetyl free does not mean acetyl propionyl free and they both cause the same lung damage in the same doses. Both are members of a family of chemicals termed Diketones. The danger posed by diketones is real and documented by pro-vaping scientists. Some claim the dangers are being exaggerated but they have little scientific evidence for this.

At the time of publishing the study, vapers were calling for Farsalinos to publish the names of offending companies. “The reasons why we didn’t report the manufacturers in our paper is simple…this is an industry-wide problem,” said the Doctor.

Five Pawns were approached were approached by Click Bang at the time of the show and promised to hand over test results. They failed to do so.

ECTA, the trade body in Canada, has a strict set of rules for members regarding testing of juices for diketones. It ranges from none set, for water percentage, through to a range of steps for the diketones. The chart below highlights that any presence between 22 and 100µg/ml (ppm) means manufacturers should advise customers of its presence. Any liquid containing over 100µg/ml (ppm) is a fail and banned from sale.

Cloud 9 Vaping stocked liquids manufactured by Five Pawns. In their role of a responsible vendor, they approach Five Pawns for testing data, as Click Bang had done in September. Five Pawns failed to present any results so Cloud 9 Vaping commissioned their own laboratory tests. Cloud 9’s results are shown in the table below with readings classed as fails by ECTA highlighted in red.

Five Pawns disputed these figures and finally released their own findings. The table below shows their figures with readings classed as fails by ECTA highlighted in red.

These figures relate to ONE MILLILITRE of eJuice, for the acceptable intake for a daily limit. Bowden’s Mate, using Five Pawns own data, is six times higher than the accepted safety limit if a vaper vapes 1ml. If someone were to vape 5ml of juice they would be exceeding the NIOSH/ECTA limits by 30 times over. C9V’s results indicate a risk of 125 times the recommended maximum.

Five Pawns have been approached for comment but have not replied at the present time. They have issued a statement on their website. Referring to C9V’s results they say: “fraudulent claims have been made about our e-liquids” while admitting, “there is currently no standardized or approved methodology for testing e-liquids.”

They continue: “We take these accusations very seriously, not only for ourselves but the industry as a whole. It is reckless and liable to post test results on products using a non-validated method.  Therefore, we have issued a Cease and Desist in the matter and are aggressively pursuing all legal remedy necessary to correct the public record.”

This resulted in C9V taking down their legitimate results while they sought legal advice.

C9V have since updated their site to say: “The original content of the post, dated 28th June 2015 and entitled Liquid test results, was a table of test results of liquids supplied by Five Pawns (as well as other suppliers) and an explanation of those test results. They declined to provide their own test results when we commenced trading at the start of 2015, accordingly (and in accordance with our product testing policy) we submitted 8 Five Pawns liquids to testing at an independent UKAS accredited laboratory.

We published the results approximately 7 weeks after providing them privately to Five Pawns.

Five Pawns took exception to the post, sent a cease and desist letter through their attorneys, threatening legal action if our post was not removed. Whilst we stand by these results, we decided to take down the information to comply with Five Pawns’ request. Our own solicitors have responded in robust terms rejecting allegations made by Five Pawns, and they have now released their own test results, and it is incontrovertible that liquid produced by Five Pawns contains the compounds in question.”

Click Bang revisited the subject of diketones this week and described the situation as a “train wreck” and that Five Pawns are “self destructing”. The show calls the owners of Five Pawns “idiots” as they’ve adopted a stance of being proud of their own results showing levels over double those found in the Suicide Bunny data, results that are far in excess of NIOSH/ECTA limits.

The show read a response from a Five Pawns customer service representative to an email asking if their liquid has any diketones: “I’m reaching out to you regarding your question. None of our handcrafted flavours use diacetyl or acetoin or acetyl propionyl. We only use natural USP food-grade ingredients and the best pharmaceutical-grade nicotine resulting in a 50/50 VG/PG combination made in the state of California. All of our liquids are allergen free. I hope this helps, if you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.”

The response came at a time when Five Pawns were in possession of their own findings, while they were fully aware that their juice contained levels in excess of the generally accepted safety figures, and hid them from customers.

Click Bang have stored the West Yorkshire Analytical Services results here. The results also highlight wild fluctuations in the nicotine content levels.

Click Bang phoned Five Pawns and was transferred to a supervisor.

“Hi, this is Brooke, how can I help you?”

Brooke was asked about Absolute Pin, the juice that Five Pawns’ own results show has almost three times the maximum acceptable level for diketones.

“I believe there are trace amounts,” said Brooke.

She was then asked to also comment on the content of Bowden’s Mate, a juice with over six times the maximum levels.

“I’m not sure what this character is...for Bowden’s Mate the acetyl propionyl is non-detectable to 1.5 per millilitre.”

It is an utterly fictitious response. “They lied, they hide the results, then they put the results out there and say some scientific things that just aren’t true,” summarised Click Bang.

ECTA have acted to instruct all members to withdraw Grandmaster, Gambit, Queenside, Bowden’s Mate and Absolute Pin from sale immediately. They have also instructed them to make sure customers are informed about the levels in Castle Long, Lucena and Black Flag Fallen.

ECITA representative Tom Pruen said: "Historically, there has been concern about the products from places like China, and wide ranging testing has been conducted, and we have always required that our members test the products they produce. However, there has been an assumption that products from the US would be of high enough quality that testing is of low priority, but the recent publication of test results on a wide range of US liquids raises concerns about the presence of high levels of AP, in some product ranges."

"As a result of this, we advised our members that they should not assume that US made e-liquids were of acceptable quality, in the absence of recent, credible, testing," he added.

The Ecigwizard chain commented: “It is morally repugnant that any vendor would not wish to confirm the quality of a product before selling it to their loyal customers – customers that, for the most part are unaware of the potential hazards.

Before retailing a product that we produce or import from another supplier, we conduct thorough GC-MS testing to ensure the products are free from all known hazards. Only then do we even consider offering it to the unaware general public.”

Totally Wicked write that Five Pawns “has published some test results for every single e-liquid it sells. Shockingly, many of those tested showed high levels of diacetyl and acetyl propionyl. Interestingly though, this company has decided to continue to sell and stock all of the e-liquids that tested positive for diacetyl and acetyl propionyl.

One has to ask, why?

How can this be of benefit to the vaper?”

Dr Farsalinos is unequivocal that diketones cause damage to the lungs and that it is an additive that doesn’t have to be in liquid. ECTA have eliminated all high level diketone-containing juices from the market in Canada. Vapers will be waiting to see how Five Pawns respond to a growing clamour and how other manufacturers will approach juice composition and testing.

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