The research involved analysing the daily devices used by fifty-six vapers, who used tank-style devices and were recruited through flyers in vape shops and at vape events. Data was gathered detailing the type of brands used, the voltage setting for vaping, the composition of the metal used for the coil (but limited to “Kanthal, other, and unknown”), and how often the vaper changed their coil.
The team collected three samples of juice from the device and their juice container/dispenser. Next, they collected samples of the vape produced by the device – although, at four seconds per puff and with only a 30-second break between each one. These samples were then analysed for metal particulates.
The results were published this month in Environmental Health Perspectives. The team claim to have discovered that heavy metal content is 25% higher in liquid that has come into contact with the coils than liquid in its storage container. Plus, the team state that lead levels were higher than accepted health-based limits in around 50% of the samples.
Ana María Rule was one of the scientists involved in the study. She stated that regular inhalation of the identified toxic heavy metals is linked to lung, liver, immune, heart and brain damage – as well as cancer.
She said: “These were median levels only. The actual levels of these metals varied greatly from sample to sample, and often were much higher than safe limits. We don’t know yet whether metals are chemically leaching from the coil or vaporising when it’s heated.”
“It’s important for the Food and Drug Administration the e-cigarette companies and vapers themselves to know that these heating coils, as currently made, seem to be leaking toxic metals, which then get into the aerosols that vapers inhale.”
The team also identified “significant levels of arsenic” but are unsure how this got into the eliquid. They plan on taking the study further: “We've established with this study that there are exposures to these metals, which is the first step, but we need also to determine the actual health effects.”
Samrat Chowdhery, a director of the Association of Vapers India, commented: “Several shortcomings were found in a similar study conducted by the same institute last year, including overestimating normal levels of exposure, not factoring in exposure to metals from daily activities, small sample size of products tested.”
She continued: “These studies have also found a large variance in exposure levels among the users tested, which indicates harm can be significantly reduced with the use of quality products.”