Air Quality at Vape Events

Posted 17th January 2018 by Dave Cross
A team from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore have carried out a study looking at the indoor air quality at a vaping convention. It isn’t the first of its kind, and most previous studies have been negative in their conclusions.

In 2014, Igor Burstyn wrote the study ‘Peering Through The Mist’, and in it was emphatic that vape presented a negligible risk to non-vapers due to its “constituents, toxicity and exposure times.” It left the door open to anti-harm reduction activists who soon flooded journals with misguided or duplicitous studies relying on dry-burning puffing machines, inappropriately saturated cell cultures or raw product overdosed rodents.

Ones taking a positive stance, such as An Assessment of Indoor Air Quality have been few and far between. Instead, there has been a slew of studies from ‘independent’ companies and university departments (that then appear to be funded by pharmaceutical companies). The media, being what it is, loathes covering research that fails to prove anything or disproves something – electing to go for the sensationalist. A search will discover that the Huffington Post’s “researchers found that indoor vaping is ‘unlikely’ to pose a risk to the air quality of a room” is far outweighed by the likes of “e-cigarettes … could be of health concern for … second-hand smokers.”

The Hopkins Bloomberg study is different in that it focuses on a vape event where, as we all know, the air gets thick with vapour. Like a widely criticised one carried out in 2016, written about by Clive Bates, it was done covertly, without informing the vape event organisers.

“The large concentration of people using e-cigarettes and poor air ventilation can result in indoor air pollution,” write the authors. The study was carried out because they have “concerns for e-cigarette vendors and other venue staff workers.”

If anybody needs an indication of where this is going, bias is laid bare in the paper’s introduction: “Growing evidence indicates that inhaled e-cigarette aerosol is composed of compounds with known adverse health effects. Several studies have also shown that e-cigarette aerosol contains … formaldehyde.”

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Three teams of two people snuck around an event at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in April 2016, shouldering a rucksack that hid the measuring equipment, where “intensity of smell was categorised as weak, strong or intolerable, and visibility was categorised as normal, low or zero visibility.” It is incredible that such subjective claptrap has been published in Nature – a respected scientific journal.

They measured particulate concentrations and the presence of nicotine and, amazingly, concluded “the detection of airborne nicotine, a specific marker not related to other sources of air pollution, supports that e-cigarettes are a major source of indoor air pollutants during vaping conventions.”

They finish by demanding laws to restrict vaping: “These results can inform FDA policy by supporting restricting use of e-cigarettes indoors, and recommending worker protections at vaping venues, such as vape shops and lounges.”


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